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Smith finally has the monkey off the back

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

It was a long time coming, but Zack Smith doesn't have to hear about how long it has been since he scored anymore and that will be a welcome development.

The Sens forward went 37 regular season games without scoring a goal, almost a full calendar year given this season's late start. Granted, much of that was simply poor puck luck with shots trickling off posts, just wide and into desperation saves, but unfortunately there is no stat for bad luck.

Smith's play comes with a caveat, of course. He has emerged as a bona fide shut down centre for the Sens, logging big minutes against opposing top lines and leaving them with goose eggs more often than not. The goals he hasn't had go in for them this season have been made up on the back end with quality two-way play.

Now, with the monkey finally off of his back, Smith has been on a minor roll as of late, scoring two goals in his last two games. The first coming against Toronto on March 6 and the second coming against the Rangers on March 8, he'll be looking for three in three against Boston on Monday in an effort to push his shooting percentage back into the realm of the mathematically reasonable.

Here are some of Smith's thoughts on his game and busting out of his slump:

On droughts and confidence...

As soon as you get the first one, you're shooting with a lot more confidence. It was a long time so it felt really good and I'm just enjoying it... When you're not scoring you're gripping your stick too tight and at the same time you're not making as confident plays as usual.

On his drought and the team's offence...

When you're not contributing and you're losing games by one or two goals it's hard sometimes, but I think with my game we were doing a good job with Chris Neil and (Dave) Dziurzynski of shutting down top lines so that kind of helps.

On superstitions and busting out...

I always switch things up, I'm fairly superstitious. I had new skates that game, I changed my knob. I used the same knob for about eight years and that was the first game I changed it so anything, you know. Even the way I come to the rink sometimes. I changed up a lot of stuff for the Toronto game.

Ideally the Sens will continue to get more production out of Smith from here on out. He has been a classic case of the numbers not indicating how well he has played this year. Getting things rolling offensively would not only be a huge benefit to the Sens who need what they can get, but also a nice reward for Smith who has deserved much better offensively this season.

Oh, to get an idea of how frustrating things can get for a player: Smith changed his knob from a smaller one to a bigger one. The smaller one was hurting his hand from literally gripping the stick too tight.

Looks like the pressure is off, literally and figuratively.

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