There’s another Panther heating up the ice this postseason. It’s not future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, nor is it Aleksander Barkov, Johnathan Huberdeau, or Aaron Ekblad. Reilly Smith has found his scoring touch. With four goals in three playoff games against the New York Islanders, Smith is leading the league in goals (4), points (8), and plus/minus (+7). If he can find a way to maintain this momentum, he may just be what the Panthers need to take them on a deep playoff run.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 18, 2016
While Smith’s recent breakout may seem surprising throughout the league, here at home, fans were expecting it. With Vincent Trocheck, the team’s hottest scorer as of late, missing the end of the regular season due to injury, others would have to step up their play. Smith was ready to accept that challenge. With less than six seconds left in the regular season, he scored his 25th goal, tying Trocheck for third on the team, getting his scoring touch back just in time for the postseason.
Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes
The story of Smith’s arrival to the Panthers and subsequent success has left Panthers fans giddy. During the offseason, Dale Tallon was looking to work his magic. In need of speed and money to hit the salary floor, he decided to turn to the Bruins. Tallon traded away Jimmy Hayes for Reilly Smith and Marc Savard. Hayes was coming off of a career year while Smith was not. Additionally, Savard was not expected to play out his contract due to concussion issues (cbssports.com). The breakdown of the trade (hockey-reference.com):
Hayes Season Age Team GP G A P +/- PIM 2014-15 25 FLA 72 19 16 35 -4 20 2015-16 26 BOS 75 13 16 29 -12 60 Smith Season Age Team GP G A P +/- PIM 2014-15 23 BOS 81 13 27 40 7 20 2015-16 24 FLA 82 25 25 50 19 31
The early results of the trade are clear, the Panthers have benefitted from a consistent second line scorer having the best season of his career, helping to propel the team to its second division title. While fans can celebrate Smith’s accomplishments thus far this season, it is his performance in the playoffs that will define him.
If the Panthers can grab Game 4 against the Islanders, on Wednesday, and eventually take the series, who knows where Smith can take this team once Trocheck returns as his center? It only takes one hot forward or goalie to go deep in the postseason; perhaps the Panthers could make this run on the shoulders of Reilly Smith.