Before the puck drops for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, Zack Smith talks overtime success, continuing to get better everyday and more...
His thoughts on Game 1
There's not a lot of expectations and you don't really know what to expect when you're coming into someone else's building this time of year. I thought we showed up right from the start, which was a big thing. It's not an easy building to play in and against arguably the best team in the East so it was a pretty good outcome for the first game of the series.
On the team's strong effort on the penalty kill in Game 1:
If we're going to take penalties, I guess you'd want it at the start of the game before guys get hands and feet under them. In certain cases, it bites you when you're taking penalties but in other cases, if you can kill those penalties, it can sometimes frustrate the other team and build a little momentum for yourself. It's a pretty fine line. You'd rather not be taking any penalties at the start of the game but it just happened to kind of benefit us, I guess.
On playing with different line-mates throughout the game:
We've been able to do it since day one so we're used to playing with different players from shift to shift. I think this late in the year that's helped us. Throughout the games, especially in the playoffs, guys get hurt. Whether it's for the rest of the game or need a few shifts off or something, it's a transitional line to be able to play different guys.
On the team's comfort level playing in overtime:
I don't know comfortable but you just gain a little momentum from that. From the first one in the first round, we've kind of had that feeling from the start that we have nothing to lose. Don't go out there being afraid to make mistakes. That is something we have learned throughout the season and I think that was part of our game before. It's nice to go out there and everyone knows they just need one chance to score. We've had contributions from a lot of different guys out there.
Video: OTT@PIT, Gm1: Ryan roofs game-winning goal in OT
On the importance of staying grounded:
Don't get too ahead of yourself. I think you guys can attest that we're a pretty humble group of guys. I don't think we let too much go over our heads. It's not that we're content to be here. Just happy to make it this far. We want to keep pushing and get better every day. So it's not really a surprise for us, but keeping a level head has been a big part of that.
On the focus the team has had this season:
It's a totally different feel. This is my seventh year and it's not even so much as quiet confidence but just trust within the group. We have a great group of guys and honestly it's been amazing throughout the whole Playoffs. When you have that confidence behind you too, it's a lot easier to play.
On playing the underdog role:
It's not a bad position to be in the underdog spot and be underestimated. It's no surprise.
On how this team is different from last year's:
I think in the staff's mind and the players' mind, it's the same identity but it's actually what we wanted. We're a very consistent team in the way we play. Predictable within the team and a hard team to play against. It's no secret that the system we play in and the way we play that we don't give up a lot of chances. When we do, we have a solid goaltender right there. I'm not necessarily sure how to word how it is but...stinginess, I guess, would be a way to describe it.
On getting used to #TheSystem:
It takes a little getting used to. I don't think any of us played in the system we're playing in now. You have to be a little more patient without the puck, not nearly as much one-and-done, I guess you'd say. It took a little bit of getting used to. At the start of the year, guys were trying to find a happy medium between that and getting scoring chances and production but credit to the coaches who stuck with it and trusted it. I don't think it took that long. Halfway through the year, we had a pretty good idea that it's possible to get both ends. It was a bit of a learning curve for a lot of us, but we accepted it, and it's worked for us now.
On takeaways from their second round series against the Rangers:
We can definitely learn something from the last round. It was a different setup, the first two games at home and then we went into their building. I think we sat back a little too much. They were flying, and we were kind of caught off guard a little bit. It took us two games to kind of get that back. Hopefully, we learned from that. That just shows you how easily it can -- you know, the momentum can turn. Momentum does not carry over between games. We know that. It's a whole new game every time you step on the ice. So we'll be aware of that.