Throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Red Wings, Brendan Smith has been a lightning rod for cheers and jeers.
Smith has been one of the few defensemen on the Red Wings willing to jump into the play and create offense, but that comes with a cost.
I think Henrik Zetterberg put it best, when he said:
[Brendan Smith] creates a lot of stuff. Sometimes for both teams.”
In game one, Brendan Smith was the goat and managed to make Kyle Quincey look good. Bad defensive breakdowns, terrible turnovers, and poor positioning all plagued him. Smith was directly responsible for the Hawks first goal in game one because he could not get the puck out of the zone at the blue line. Smith did not play well in game one and even he knew he would have to do better in game two.
Game two started off poorly for Smith thanks in part to Patrick Sharp, who lifted Smith’s stick and stole to puck away from him. Sharp then took the puck down the ice and started the play, which saw Patrick Kane put the puck behind Howard.
In the second period Brendan Smith redeemed himself and scored what ended up being the game winning goal. It was his second goal of the playoffs and he has the only playoff goals by Red Wing defenseman.
Some of the problems can be chalked up to it being his first full year in the NHL and first crack at playoff hockey, but that only accounts for so much.
It is not big pressure moments that cause Brendan Smith any issues, but the little things; clearing the zone, making the first pass, and pinching in on the blue line. While these problems have compounded and given the Hawks glorious scoring opportunities, it is an easy fix.
The good news is he is learning from his mistakes. In the 3rd period, Smith pinched in and got caught, two Hawks were heading down on Quincey and Howard, but Smith did not give up and made it back in time to break up the 2 on 1.
He took great strides in being smarter with the puck in game two, but he made two bad pinching plays and gave the puck away twice in the Wings’ zone.
Smith needs to find a balance between offensive production and defensive responsibility, which he has not found yet.
He has to build on his play in game two and come into game three ready to take the next step in his progression. If he does not build on game two Red Wing fans will have another sleepless night on their hands.
Which Brendan Smith do you think will show up for the Red Wings?