Devante Smith-Pelly's unexpected production after arriving from the minor leagues has pushed the Ducks to two wins from the Western Conference finals.
The 21-year-old forward finds himself on the first line with Anaheim stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in Game 5 Monday night at Honda Center, after scoring a Game 4 goal Saturday night at Staples Center.
Smith-Pelly, summoned from minor-league Norfolk, Va., in early April, scored a regulation goal and the shootout winner April 12 to help the Ducks clinch the top seed in the Western Conference in a win over the Kings.
In the playoffs, he scored twice, including a final-minute goal that sent the Ducks to overtime in Game 6 of the first-round playoff series they won over Dallas.
Saturday, while John Gibson was in the midst of a 28-save shutout in his NHL playoff debut at Staples Center, Smith-Pelly took a no-look, backhanded pass from Perry in the first period and beat none other than Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, MVP of the 2012 playoffs.
Of Gibson, Smith-Pelly said, “Saw that on a nightly basis -- six shutouts with like 35 saves [in Norfolk], so that was nothing new," as the goalie's Game 4 performance evened the series two games apiece.
“Me just knowing his personality, I knew he’d be all right. He never gets rattled. Almost like it’s just another game ... he’s so relaxed.”
As for Smith-Pelly’s own contributions, he said he’s letting NHL MVP finalist Getzlaf and 2011 MVP Perry “play their game ... if I tried to play like them, I probably wouldn’t do too well. I
just put my stick on the ice and waited” on the Perry assist.
“Good head on his shoulders, can make plays, and played center, right wing and left wing in Norfolk,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Smith-Pelly. “Good hockey IQ. ... There’s a trust factor. We know [he’s] going to do a good job.”
Smith-Pelly said he shares similar thoughts with Gibson about the upgraded demands of moving from the minors to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“When you get out there, it has to be just another game. ... It’s bigger, but if you do what got you here, you’ll be fine,” Smith-Pelly said. “Both of us are doing that.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times