Oilers veteran Ryan Smyth is consistent with his willingness to battle and go to the hard areas of the ice and has been rewarded for it
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Smyth went to the net, as he always has, on the power play and created traffic, confusion and havoc in front of Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton. After a shot from the point zeroed in on the net, Smyth batted in the loose puck from the crease and gave is team the 3-1 lead in an eventual 5-1 win.
It was deja vu. That same type of goal and same drive to the gritty areas has happened Smyth’s entire career and it continues to pay off for the 37-year-old warrior.
“You see his compete every night,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “He’s one of the oldest guys, I think he’s the oldest guy on our team and he’s still working his butt off every night and it’s great to see. Being a part of the record tying or close to the record tying goal was pretty special (Sunday) night.”
With Smyth’s goal, he tied Gretzky with 125 career power play goals as an Oiler. He is just one back of Glenn Anderson for the most all-time.
“I feel very honoured to be tied with Gretz in a record and it’s a special moment for myself and my family,” Smyth said. “Hopefully things go well here in the next little bit, hopefully sooner than later would be great. I grew up idolizing these guys, the Edmonton Oilers and Gretz, (Anderson)… Needless to say, it’s special to play in this league and to be in the midst with those guys’ names is an honour.”
|Smyth celebrates his Gretzky tying power play goal on Sunday night. Photo by Getty Images.
Smyth’s teammates knew exactly what had transpired when the veteran threw an enthusiastic fist into the air in celebration of his accomplishment.
“We were all aware of it so we got the puck,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “It’s pretty cool to tie Wayne Gretzky in anything, so I know it’s definitely a special time for him and we were happy to get him that.”
Smyth has always gone into battle willingly with the knowledge that the grittiest and toughest areas of the ice are where you’ll find more opportunities to score.
“I identified that early on in my career thinking, you know what? The puck has got to go there so you might a well get your body there and create a little havoc that way and it just evolved into this,” Smyth said. “Any way I can help the team, in that respect, it’s obviously something I’ve been known for, for many years… You watch a lot of hockey around the league and you see guys going to the net causing traffic and you get your result.”
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“There’s so many things to learn from Ryan Smyth for our guys that aren’t so experienced,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “You have to want to go those areas. You have to enjoy it to be a good player and to be a good team. You can’t be a 200-foot player if you are going to shy away from certain areas and Ryan Smyth loves to go stand in front of that net and he gets whacked and hit and slashed and cross-checked and he’s fine with it because he knows he’s going to be rewarded there and if he’s rewarded, the team’s rewarded.”
Smyth was drafted in 1994. By comparison, Nugent-Hopkins was born in 1993. Age however, has not been a factor in the will and want-to of Smyth when it comes to sacrificing his body for the good of the team and that doesn’t surprise him one bit.
“It’s just instilled in me,” he said. “The willingness that I’ve tried to commit myself to do and to help the team get to those situations and sometimes you’ve got to pay a price for it and sometimes you don’t. That’s my skill and (Taylor Hall) has got a skill on the outside that he’s got a great shot. Everybody brings different skills and different elements to the game and I want to stick to that to be successful.”
Smyth is just one goal short from making Oilers history in one statistical category, but he continues to make his mark on this roster every day.
“He’s got great habits, he’s been a pleasure to coach, he’s on every detail of the game and he’s a great, great pro,” Eakins said. “I was extremely excited when he got that one (Sunday) night because any time you’ve got your name next to Wayne Gretzky, it’s a great, great thing.”