There are certain Caps players that we run hot and cold about. Devante Smith-Pelly (DSP) has been one of those for us this season. Unlike us, Coach Barry Trotz has always had faith in him. The 25 year-old Canadian who was drafted in the second round and 42nd by the Ducks in 2010 had bounced between teams with little to show for his time. He was signed by the Capitals during the 2017 Summer of Change to a two-way contract. We weren’t even sure if he would skate with the Caps or the Hershey Bears. And if he did skate with the Caps, our expectations were low because of his past performance, most recently with the Devils in which he only scored four goals with five assists and a -19 plus/minus for the 2016/17 season.
His 2017/18 season has been full of ups and downs. He ended the regular season with seven goals and nine assists and a -6. A slight improvement. He also increased his penalty minutes from 12 minutes in the previous season to 38 minutes with the Caps. The Washington Post wrote in January 2018 that he was the “unexpected bargain” for the team. Trotz had confidence in him when what many of us saw was an undisciplined penalty-making player who continued to struggle.
The team and the Caps community rallied around DSP when he was the object of racists attacks during a Caps-Blackhawks game in Chicago. The Capitals franchise had similar issues during the 2012 playoffs when there were a slew of racial attacks against Joel Ward on social media. Chicago and Hawks fans donated $20,000 to Ft. Dupont in Smith-Pelly’s name by way of apology.
And then came the playoffs!!
DSP has continued to find himself in the sin bin for some avoidable penalties – he has spent 12 minutes in 23 games sitting in the box. AND, he has had some of the most memorable goals of the playoffs sitting now with six goals and one assist, his best playoff performance to date. He fully restored his reputation in the 2 June game against the Vegas Golden Knights after catching two penalties (interference and tripping) in the first and second periods he scored the third goal for the Caps off a pass from Jay Beagle. He then went on in Game Four to show his scoring prowess, again with the third goal of the game. This after he took a nasty blow (video) at practice and we weren’t even sure he would be in the lineup.
DSP has become the clutch player for the Capitals, just when they needed him to step forward and use all the force he has to win. So far we have seen him score twice against the Columbus Blue Jackets helping the Caps to clinch in game six. Then against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he helped the Caps gain the lead in game two and scoring again in game six. He continues to show why the coach has such faith in him and why he is such an important element in the Caps winning strategy.