Detroit — Early into Game 3, in his return to the Red Wings’ lineup, Brendan Smith was intent on making an impact.
Preferably with a hit, being a physical presence, and that’s exactly what Smith did, slamming Lightning forward Cedric Paquette in the corner with a thunderous hit early in the first period.
Red Wings fans took notice. So, did Smith’s teammates as they took the emotional cue, which lead to a 2-0 Game 3 victory.
“He set the tone early,” said forward Luke Glendening of Smith’s hit. “What a hit, and to have a guy like that, a physical presence, who can fight, that’s always helpful.
“He hadn’t played in a while, and to see how ready he was to play is outstanding for your group.”
It was a positive return for Smith, who has the ability to provide a lift with his on-the-edge play.
Smith replaced Kyle Quincey in the lineup and had an immediate, positive impact in 16 minutes, 57 seconds of ice time, with three hits and two blocked shots, and a plus-1 rating.
“ Brendan Smith played great and had an immediate impact right away,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
After not having played in nearly a month, Smith wanted to throw himself into the action quickly and decisively.
The hit on Paquette helped Smith to do that on a variety of levels.
“For myself, that’s what I want to do,” Smith said. “I want to get a couple touches here and there, I’ve been out for a month so you’ve got to get yourself ready and used to the pace of the game.
“Sometimes that helps me. It helped me and it seemed to get the boys a little bit of momentum, and that just helped out the whole situation.”
Having watched the Lightning take the Red Wings apart the Red Wings in the first two games of the series, including having the upper hand physically, Smith was intent on setting a tone physically early.
He was able to, lining up Paquette so early in the game.
“Right off the bat, our first game in Tampa, they came out and they were banging and they got momentum,” Smith said. “So for myself to jump in and do something like that, maybe I could help out in that sense and kind of mellow into my game and play hard defense.
“That’s ultimately what I’m trying to do. If I play my game well, it’s going to help the boys.”
Smith’s sense of edge to his game — he practically challenged the entire Tampa Bay bench near the end of the game — provided a lift.
“For Smitty to come in and throw a big hit like that early, he gets right into it,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Everybody could hear the fans and it was pretty loud, which was awesome. But, of course, the physical play is something that’s a big part of this and we did a fairly good job of that.”
Smith’s overall game plays perfectly into the playoffs, and the way the game is played this time of year.
“He’s a defenseman that comes out, plays physical, plays hard and the type of hockey in the playoffs that is important,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “He doesn’t give opponents much space in front of the net, he finishes checks and he had a couple of big checks early on to spark us.”
The victory was important, the Red Wings established themselves physically, thanks to Smith, but he doesn’t believe the momentum of the series has dramatically shifted.
And, in Game 4, you can bet Smith will try to make an impact early, as well.
“Just flush it, like I’ve been saying and get ready for the next game and create some momentum right off the bat the first couple of shifts,” Smith said.