Top Hawks scorer Ben Smith living his dream
BY BEN MEYER-ABBOTT firstname.lastname@example.org April 16, 2011 10:44PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
A month ago, Ben Smith’s presence in the Blackhawks’ locker room was purely precautionary.
Fast forward to today, and he’s the Hawks’ unlikely leading playoff scorer ahead of Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinal against the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s a lot of fun. [Scoring in the playoffs] is something that I’ve dreamed of forever,” Smith said after the Hawks arrived from Vancouver. “Everyone’s been supportive offering advice, and it’s something that I’ve tried to eat up and use for my game.”
Smith dressed for warmups for the game March 20 at Phoenix but didn’t play and was sent back to the minors less than 24 hours after he was called up from Rockford.
The Hawks had brought him up after they were forced to play a player short when Bryan Bickell was a late scratch with an illness.
The Hawks recalled Smith — who has one goal in six career regular-season games, all of which came this season — again after Troy Brouwer sprained his right shoulder in the last week of the season.
And it was the 22-year-old — and not one of the big guns — who was the first to put one past Roberto Luongo during a two-goal performance in Game 2 after Luongo had held the Hawks scoreless for the first 94:50 of the series.
“At Boston College [where he won the 2008 NCAA championship], I was fortunate to play in some big games with some big crowds,” Smith said. “Every time you can do that and get used to that environment and playing in high-pressure games, that’s always helpful.”
A new look tonight
Coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday he is interested in changing things up — whether with personnel or a different scheme — with the power play tonight.
The Hawks are 0-for-5 with the man advantage during the first two games and have converted only two of their last 26 opportunities (7.7 percent) on the power play.
That’s way down from the 23.1 percent that was fourth best in the NHL during the regular season.
“It’s a big part of the game, especially this time of year, and we failed to capture some momentum,” Patrick Sharp said. “It’s a little difficult when you don’t get very many opportunities. But you can’t make any excuses, we’ve got find a way to make one count.”
The Hawks have only had the man advantage five times in the series — down from the 4.6 power plays per game they averaged in the 12 playoff games with Vancouver in 2009 and 2010.
Bumps and bruises
Quenneville said Tomas Kopecky (upper body) has been “progressing” since he was knocked out of Game 1 on a hit by Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo late in the first period.
Bickell, who left Game 2 holding his right wrist after a hit in the third period, was reassessed Saturday by doctors after the team talked to the media. Quenneville said he would get a better idea at today’s morning skate if the left winger would be able to play tonight.
Center Dave Bolland (concussion) is “doubtful” for Game 3, Quenneville said. Bolland hasn’t played since suffering the injury March 9.