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Centennial Portraits

Niedermayer, Smith portraits unveiled

Color paintings of 100 Greatest NHL Players will be revealed on NHL.com on select Fridays in 2017

NHL.com @NHL

As part of the NHL Centennial Celebration, renowned Canadian artist Tony Harris will paint original portraits of each of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian as chosen by a Blue Ribbon panel. NHL.com will reveal two portraits each Monday in 2017 and two on Friday. Aug. 11, 25 and Sept. 8.

This week, the portraits of defenseman Scott Niedermayer and goalie Billy Smith are unveiled in the 36th installment.

Selected by the New Jersey Devils with the No. 3 pick in the 1991 NHL Draft, Scott Niedermayer won the Stanley Cup three times with the Devils (1995, 2000, 2003) and with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. In 18 NHL seasons, he had 740 points (172 goals, 568 assists) and was plus-167 in 1,263 games.

He also won a gold medal with Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake and 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

In her NHL100 profile of Niedermayer, NHL.com staff writer Lisa Dillman recalled his dazzling end-to-end rush against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of the 1995 Final and how his smooth skating often made accomplished professionals look ordinary in comparison: 

"The biggest play that comes to mind is the goal in the playoffs in Detroit," former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "But he could be put in offensive situations, defensive situations, he'd be on the ice when you needed a goal or when you were killing a penalty.

"He'd be out there killing 5-on-3s. He was a leader without question. He was a core player in that era of success, and when you talk about core players, that means you count on them day in and day out to lead the pack."

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle also shared an example of Niedermayer's grace under high-stakes pressure by recalling a moment during the Cup Final against the Ottawa Senators in 2007.

"In the closing seconds of the second period of Game 4, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson inexplicably shot the puck at Niedermayer. He eventually apologized to Niedermayer in the handshake line after the Ducks won the series in five games. Alfredsson told TSN Radio years later that he regretted the incident, saying, 'I had one of those moments where it just snapped for me.'"

At the time, the Ducks were livid.

"Our team wanted to rip Daniel Alfredsson's head off," Carlyle said. "By the time I got to the dressing room, the players were all in and had filed off and [Niedermayer] was in the room.

"He had instructed all the players not to worry about that. We had a bigger task at hand. He diffused the situation and we went out and won the hockey game.

"He was The Piece … he was the main frame," Carlyle said. "You cannot underestimate his importance to the group. Yes, there were some very good players, key players that were added afterward and molded together.

"Chris Pronger might have been the final piece of the addition but Scott Niedermayer in the lineup was the glue."

Artist Tony Harris said he tried to capture Niedermayer's speed in his portrait.

"One of the amazing things I found watching Scott Niedermayer play was his ability to make a rush and get back to his defensive responsibilities so quickly," Harris said. "In this painting, I wanted to show his offensive side. Head up, moving through the neutral zone with a lot of speed."

Video: Scott Niedermayer was known for his smooth skating

Billy Smith's regular-season statistics were good. He was 305-233-105 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .882 save percentage in 18 NHL seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Islanders, including an NHL career-high 32 wins that helped him receive the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender in 1981-82.

But where Smith made his biggest impact was during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he helped the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships (1980-83), five straight appearances in the Cup Final, and an NHL-record 19 consecutive playoff series victories, a mark that may never be broken. He won 88 postseason games, tied with Ed Belfour for fourth place on the League's all-time list. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1983 after leading NHL goalies during the playoffs in wins (13), and tying for the lead in shutouts (two). His signature game was a 2-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of the 1983 Cup Final, when his 35 saves shut down Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey.

Smith also had an abrasive side to his game, retiring as the NHL's all-time penalty minutes leader among goalies in the regular season (489), according to Hockey-Reference.com, and playoffs (89). In his NHL100 profile of Smith, author Stu Hackel writes that no nickname has ever been more deserved than "Battlin'" Billy Smith:

"He piled up penalty minutes, unusual for a goaltender, and was proud of it. He steadfastly refused to shake hands with opponents after playoff series. He'd leave the top few inches of his stick shaft untaped, weaponizing the butt end. When the Philadelphia Flyers trotted out Kate Smith, the grande dame of American song, to deliver 'God Bless America' from center ice before a 1975 playoff Game 7 at the Spectrum, Smith groused, 'I should have skated over her wires.'

"The New York Islanders star goalie during their Stanley Cup dynasty years in the early 1980s, and the final original Islander from the 1972 expansion draft that stocked the team, Smith was a battler who never gave up on a shot, and who would never permit an opponent -- or a teammate -- to take liberties with him.

"His concept of self-defense included pre-emptive strikes and it didn't matter if the roughest player or the best player in the League ventured too close to his crease, or his team's top scorer shot too high during practice. They were all candidates to get whacked with Smith's big wooden Koho stick.

"'Battlin' Billy' was not warm and fuzzy. He was fairly disliked throughout the NHL, but was a hero to Islanders fans. Smith battled for them, for his teammates -- with whom he occasionally sparred, verbally and physically -- and for himself, and made no apologies. Rather, he reveled in it, convinced his belligerence helped him become a four-time Stanley Cup champion and the 1983 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP.

"'Sure,' he told People magazine in 1982, 'I guess you could say I've used my stick viciously. Let's face it, I like my image. I enjoy being hit. When somebody cracks me, I go right back and crack them. The more aggressive it gets, the better I play.'"

Harris said Smith was one of a kind.

"Billy Smith had a style of playing goal that we will never see in the NHL again," Harris said. "He was equal parts quickness and fearlessness. I love his Koho pads and blocker and his unique cage with zero protection for his chin and neck."

Video: Billy Smith was goalie on Islanders' 1980s dynasty

 

Scott Niedermayer

 

Billy Smith

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