Nobody took more heat for the Red Wings' Game 1 loss at Chicago than rookie defenseman Brendan Smith.
By DAVE DYEFS Detroit
DETROIT — Brendan Smith heard about all that criticism of him following the
Detroit Red Wings’ series-opening loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Nobody took more heat from analysts, sports-talk hosts and fans than the 24-year-old rookie defenseman.
“A few buddies told me it was all over Twitter,” Smith said following Friday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. “It doesn’t really faze me very much.
“You just try to put that behind you. It’s easy for myself to do. It’s a new day.”
Smith and the Red Wings will get a chance to redeem themselves for the 4-1 loss when they return to Chicago for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.
In Wednesday’s game, the Blackhawks blitzed the Wings’ back line with a tenacious fore-check that forced Smith — and others — into costly mistakes.
“You’ve just got to flush it out,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said when asked about Smith’s confidence level coming off that performance. “I don’t think it was that bad, that some people thought he was.
“I don’t think it really bothers him. He knows what he has to do.”
Smith, who has played 48 regular-season games and eight playoff games in his career, failed to clear the puck out of the Wings’ zone on Chicago’s first goal.
However, he was not on the ice for the Blackhawks’ final three goals.
Smith actually ended up plus-1 for the game because he was out there for Detroit’s only goal, even strength, and he doesn’t get charged statistically for Chicago’s goal that came on a power play.
Oddly enough, Smith and defensive partner Kyle Quincey were the only Red Wings who had a plus-rating for the night.
Still, Smith often struggled to make plays in the defensive zone.
“I heard all the stuff,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the heat on his young defenseman. “I heard the emotion from some of our staff, too.
“I didn’t see it like that. I saw a young guy trying to make a bunch of plays and no one there to accept the pass at the other end.”
In other words, the forwards and/or the other defenseman were just as much — or more — to blame for not getting into the right position.
Babcock met with Smith Friday morning before practice to watch video and discuss what happened the other night. The coach tried to reinforce some positive points and dismissed all the critics.
“I showed him making a bunch of good plays,” Babcock said. “I said, ‘Let me decide and you decide (how he's played). Nobody else decides.’”
Former Red Wing Mickey Redmond, an analyst for Fox Sports Detroit, also believes that too much of the blame was directed at Smith.
“Let’s put it this way, he had company,” Redmond said. “It was a bad night for him, but it was a bad night for a lot of guys.”
Redmond considers it all “an aberration” and expects Smith and the entire team — which has gotten some needed rest after a grueling, seven-game series with Anaheim in the opening round — to be much better in Game 2.
Smith frequently was in the spotlight because his speed gets him to the puck quicker than others.
Asked if Chicago’s pressure was overwhelming at times, Smith said, “Absolutely.”
“They’re on us really tight,” he said. “It’s really fast. They have good sticks. It’s definitely very effective.
“We’ve got to manage the puck a lot better. When they do cut off options, we have to make a good play … chipping it out to a zone where nobody’s at.
“I have to make better plays, obviously. I’ve got to make better decisions with it.”
How will he respond to this adversity? Smith seemingly has a promising career ahead of him, but he needs to bounce back and put these doubts to rest.
The sooner, the better, which means Saturday’s game could be very revealing.