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Friday, April 8, 2011
Smith earns belt with first NHL goal

By Jesse Rogers

Ben Smith
Ben Smith has drawn the respect of his teammates, who handed him the player-of-the-game belt.
DETROIT -- Ben Smith didn't know what to do with the belt that was just handed to him, nor did he know why he was given it.

After he helped the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday with his first NHL goal, captain Jonathan Toews handed him the championship wrestling belt the Hawks award to the player of the game after each win.

But Smith is as green as they come, playing in just his fifth NHL game. He didn't know about the Hawks' year-old tradition. He does now.

"I was asking Jake Dowell what it meant," Smith said. "It's a great honor."

When Patrick Kane stripped the puck from Brad Stuart in front of the Wings' goal, Smith found himself alone with it and only Jimmy Howard to beat. Things slowed down for him at that moment.

"A little bit, yeah" Smith said. "Just nice to get the puck there, especially in the first couple shifts. It's nice to get that out of the way."

You can tell when a young player is fitting in by the praise he receives from his teammates. It sounds genuine.

"He's a great kid," Patrick Sharp declared. "A good Connecticut boy. My wife is from Connecticut so I've taken a liking to him right away. He does everything right."

The captain agreed.

"It was awesome," Toews said of the goal. "He worked so hard. You can tell he has a great sense of the game. He's not one of those guys that's just happy to be here. He wants to contribute."

Toews grabbed the puck for Smith and then handed him the belt after it was over. He was informed Smith didn't know what the meaning of the belt was.

"I think he figured it out pretty quick," Toews said.

It's been a good week for Smith, who's gone From the AHL on Tuesday to a second line winger in an NHL playoff race on Friday.

  • Corey Crawford earned his first career point on a Marian Hossa breakaway in the second period. He tapped the puck to Brent Seabrook who sprung Hossa for the goal, earning the assist. The official scorer added the helper during the second intermission.
    "I hope I stole it [the assist] off one of our guys," Crawford joked.
  • The Hawks won 61 percent of their faceoffs, Toews was 18 of 27.
  • Joel Quenneville confirmed injured center Dave Bolland skated in Chicago for the first time since suffering a concussion on March 9.
    "The fact that he's on the ice gives you signs it can happen," Quenneville said of a return if the Hawks make the playoffs. "Where there wasn't a lot of hope a while ago, the picture changed."