SUNRISE, Fla. - Faster. Quicker. Stronger.
No, that's not a Daft Punk lyric; it's Reilly Smith's mantra for the summer.
"Faster. Quicker. Stronger," Smith said confidently at last week's Hockeyfest celebration at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs. "That's the main goal. I'd be lying if I said the process didn't start already. When the offseason is slow like this, you're itching to get back in the gym as fast as you can."
Like many of his teammates, Smith is already working hard in preparation for what he hopes is a return to form for both himself and the organization next season. After scoring a career-high 25 goals during his first season in Sunrise, the 26-year-old saw a noticeable dip in his point production, tallying 15 goals and 22 assists in his follow-up campaign in 2016-17.
"It was a disappointing year," Smith said. "I think everyone feels that way."
However, as a two-way forward, there was still plenty to like about Smith's game this past season, even when he wasn't lighting the lamp. He played an integral role on the Panthers' second-ranked penalty kill, making life extremely difficult for opposing power plays as the league's seventh-best forward (minimum: 125 SH minutes) in terms of shorthanded shot supression relatve to his team's performance.
"The main focus is on turning everything around and starting from scratch," Smith said after cleaning out his locker at the BB&T Center in April. "There's a lot of talent in the locker room. This season didn't pan out the way we wanted it… It's definitely frustrating, but there's a lot of potential here and we can turn it around."
Looking at the numbers, there's also no reason to believe that Smith, like the Panthers, isn't due for a bounce-back performance next season, as his shooting percentage of 9.4 in 2016-17 was well below the 11.6 percent he's averaged over his career.
"It seems like the organization has a pretty focused goal," Smith said. "We're all really excited about how fast we can turn this thing around."
In the ongoing battle between the Smith siblings, Reilly definitely got the better of his older brother, Brendan, in the win column this past season.
In head-to-head matchups, Reilly owned a 3-1-0 record against Brendan, who competed for both the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. In those contests, Reilly tallied two assists, while Brendan notched a goal and three assists.
"We've always had heated games when you play any team in your division, they're always going to be tough games and to play against your brother adds something to it," Reilly said of Brendan. "I know when he's out on the ice, but I know when every other player is out there, too."
Smith admitted that he was just trying to help his goaltender, Roberto Luongo, get a well deserved victory after scoring the game-winning goal in Florida's 3-1 win over intrastate rival Tampa Bay on Nov. 7.
With the game tied 1-1 late in the third period, Smith took matters into his own hands, stealing the puck away from defenseman Victor Hedman near Tampa Bay's blue line before firing a rocket of a shot past goaltender Ben Bishop to make it 2-1 with just just 4:28 left in regulation.
"It was good to turn it around and pick up a win because (Luongo), he's been standing on his head the last few nights," Smith said after the game. "It's nice to get one for him."
Video: Smith's late goal lifts Panthers over Lightning, 3-1
GOAL OF THE YEAR
This type of goal is exactly what makes Smith so dangerous.
With the Panthers on the power play, Smith recieves the puck from beind the left circle and immediately unleashes a blistering wrist shot through traffic and over the glove of Red Wings goaltender Jared Coreau.
Video: DET@FLA: Smith rings nifty PPG off the iron