Maple Leafs’ Ben Smith Gets His Goal Song
Few Leafs have had “goal songs” that play at home after they score, fewer still get to hear it at length.
That was the unexpected pleasure for fourth-line centre Ben Smith, whose second period strike on Wednesday — in his second stint with the Leafs — prompted game operations to hit the play button on “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John. Because his goal came after video review was invoked by an Edmonton shot that hit the inside of the post on Wednesday, both teams were grouped around their benches while Elton’s 1973 kept on playing. “It’s nice and it was funny,” said Smith, who was claimed on waivers a few days ago after finishing last year with the Leafs and Marlies. “We had a good laugh at the bench because there was a bit of a pause, so they were able to play about a minute of it.
“I never asked for it to be played, but it’s creative and funny and obviously I want to hear that song a lot more often.”
Add Mike Babcock to the list of Leaf coaches unable to explain why the club struggles in road games against Buffalo.
Whatever rink the Sabres are in, whatever it’s called (KeyBank Center at present), it continues to be a tough two points. Toronto’s record is a terrible tale of 27-62-6-6 since 1970-71. In Babcock’s first two tries, the Leafs lost 4-1 and 2-1 last season.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Babcock said. “I just know Buffalo and us are teams that perceive ourselves as being in transition and getting better. We’re going to be battling with them for years to come and it’s important we play well against them.”
The Leafs have tried many pre-game rituals, from busing in the morning the day before the game, to a night departure to a game-day flight or driving at the last possible minute. The Leafs have departed a day early under Babcock.
Smith is enjoying his time with linemate Nikita Soshnikov a lot more, now that the Russian has spent a full summer in Canada getting acclimatized.
Communication was a huge issue when he came over from the KHL and required lots of English classes.
“He’s improving,” laughed Smith. “When I first got here, I didn’t know he couldn’t speak English. So I had to ask the other guys ‘I’m pretty sure he didn’t understand a word I was just saying’. So it’s great to have familiarity.
“Just the way Sosh plays and the way he played last night, he’s holding on to pucks, playing fast and being creative. That’s his game, he holds on to it, finds space and allows you to read off it and find your own space. He does something special every shift. We don’t want to play defence all the time.”
Nazem Kadri’s overtime goal on Tuesday, where he took a Morgan Rielly pass and fought off Connor McDavid to score 12 seconds in, was the second fastest extra period goal by a Leaf in the modern OT era. Mats Sundin scored six seconds into a game against the Blues in 1995 … No lineup changes appear imminent for the Leafs, though defenceman Frank Corrado has now sat 10 games … Babcock is stressing better shot blocking by his team in Buffalo after the Oilers had 46 shots on Frederik Andersen and missed the net with 16 more … Defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and winger Matt Martin had five hits each on Tuesday.