2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Mike Richards finally steps up

Richards2.jpgPhiladelphia Flyers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Series tied 2-2

Despite how the rest of the team has been playing, if the
Philadelphia Flyers had any hope of tying this series and eventually
going on to win the Stanley Cup, then they would need their captain to
step up and raise the level of his game.

All series long Mike Richards has struggled, whether it’s because of
the Chicago defense or the health of his linemates or just the ebb and
flow of the post, there’s been no doubt that this team needed him to be
better. Coach Peter Laviolette said before the game that he felt that
Richards and the line with Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne was ready to
break out, and while they had just two goals between the three — with
one being an empty-netter — yet Richards set the tone early for his
team and never backed off.

After the game, the rest of the team acknowledged just how big of
difference he made tonight.

“[Richards] always finds a way to step up when it’s time,” said
Claude Giroux. “Obviously, his goal was huge. He just always finds a
way to get that big goal for us.”

That big goal came off an incredible individual effort by Mike
Richards on the power play, who chased down the puck along the boards.
He stole the puck from an unsuspecting Niklas Hjalmarsson and a quick
backhand surprised Antti Niemi. It opened the scoring and set the tone
for what would be a great first period by the Flyers.

It wasn’t just that goal though, as Richards and his line
continuously put the pressure on the Hawks. In the past, the Hawks had
been able to easily shut down the top line yet was burned by the second
and third lines of the Flyers. Tonight, with Richards playing so well,
it opened up the game for the Flyers in all areas as they completely
controlled the flow and the energy for the first two periods.

Mike Richards says the key for him was easy: keep it simple.

“I think sometimes when you try to do too much, you almost go the
opposite way and not do enough,” the Flyers captain said after the game.

“Just keep it simple, try to relax, play hockey, and at the end of
the day, just don’t try to do too much with the puck, or don’t try to do
too much without the puck. Then you just dig yourself in the corners.”

Richards provided the leadership on the ice tonight that we’ve been
waiting for all series long, as the rest of the team has made up for the
top line’s shortcomings. It’s not just about scoring goals, and in the
first three games Mike Richards was nearly invisible. Not so tonight, as
he stood out on every single shift. It seemed as if the Hawks just
weren’t ready for his energy and the pressure he was putting on their
defense.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Blackhawks and Flyers game if one team
didn’t come roaring back in the third period. This time around, it was
the Hawks who had the big third period, getting within 4-3 with two late
goals. It seems in this series that holding onto a lead for any amount
of time is nearly impossible to do, and Richards says that turnovers
certainly don’t help when you’re playing a team like the Hawks.

“We know they’re great on transition,” Richards said. “I mean, to
lead to your next question, that’s when we kind of caused some problems
for ourselves, was turning the puck over.”

“We got the puck in
deep. When we hit their defense, we had success. When we didn’t do
that, they came back fast the other way. Not the greatest way that we
wanted to finish the game. But I think we have confidence in ourselves
with a one-goal lead. Closed it out when we needed to.”

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    Flames’ Bennett, Tkachuk accused of slew-footing in loss to Leafs

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    The Calgary Flames dropped an ugly 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, not exactly rebounding from an embarrassing 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.

    Things were ugly in a different way toward the end, especially if you ask Maple Leafs fans, as Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk may or may not be guilty of “slew-footing” late in the contest. In each case, they were whistled for roughing.

    Bennett was guilty of the first incident on Connor Carrick:

    Meanwhile, around the time of the final whistle, Tkachuk’s “roughing” of Martin Marincin drew quite a bit of ire. You can see for yourself in the video above the post’s headline.

    More than a few people believe that Tkachuk will be on the Department of Player Safety’s radar thanks to this moment.

    There’s no doubt that he’s been making waves as a pest – really, from his first game in the NHL – but some believe he went over the line this time. He’s second in the NHL with 92 penalty minutes, by the way.

    Patrick Marleau’s magical third period secures Sharks win vs. Avalanche

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    At 37 years old and nearing 500 career goals, there aren’t a ton of things Patrick Marleau has failed to accomplish.* Still, he did something he’s never done – and few players have managed to do – in the San Jose Sharks’ 5-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.

    The amusing thing is that it was a mundane night for Marleau and the Sharks heading into the third period.

    They carried a 2-1 lead against the Avs before Marleau’s magical period really kicked into gear. In less than eight minutes of game time, Marleau managed an out-of-left-field natural hat trick:

    He didn’t stop there, either, as he also hit the four-goal mark for the first time in his career … and again, it was in the same period.

    That’s his first four-goal game (and period, naturally). It’s been a long, long time since someone enjoyed a period like Marleau did:

    Speaking of history, this massive night indeed places Marleau close to another impressive feat. He’s now at 497 career goals, three away from the elusive 500 mark.

    To underscore how unexpected this outburst was, consider this: Marleau generated zero goals and one assist in his previous seven games.

    As the Sharks enjoy an era fueled by the ascent of Brent Burns and the passing of the torch from the likes of Marleau and Joe Thornton to a group including Logan Couture and Martin Jones, it seems fitting that Marleau – a player receding from the team’s spotlight – totally stole the spotlight on Monday.

    The Sharks probably won’t complain, either. He helped them seal their fifth consecutive win, putting San Jose in a strong position to regain the lead in the Pacific Division.

    Pretty good stuff from a guy who rapidly faded from relevance after being stripped of the Sharks captaincy.

    * – How dare you make Stanley Cup jokes on a happy occasion for Sharks fans?

    Capitals assert their dominance once again, this time clobbering Hurricanes

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammates after assisting Justin Williams #14 on a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Verizon Center on January 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    The Washington Capitals lead the league in standings points … and maybe in swagger. At least, it feels that way lately.

    Monday presented their latest display of power as the Carolina Hurricanes had no answer for the Capitals machine. Washington clobbered Carolina by a score of 6-1, but at least the Hurricanes can take comfort in joining a rather large group of teams who’ve been humbled by Braden Holtby & Co.

    This makes the Capitals 11-0-1 during a dominant run; they’ve scored at least a point in all but one game since Dec. 21.

    Honestly, you can dice up their hot streak in a variety of ways, as Washington’s been outstanding since at least early December. Margin of victory might be the most jaw-dropping way to illustrate Washington’s dominant run:

    Yep, that’s something else.

    Dmitry Orlov was one of the standouts of this latest win, scoring two goals. His strong night and flashes of brilliance prompted Alex Ovechkin to … maybe go a little over the top.

    Hey, when you’re on fire like the Capitals have been lately, it’s probably tough to make some pretty bold comparisons.

    Things might be turning around for Lundqvist (not so much for the Kings)

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings shakes hands with Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers after the Kings 3-2 double-overtime victory during Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    As you likely know, the 2017 NHL All-Star Game is coming to Los Angeles this weekend. If the Kings don’t get it together, that might be the biggest hockey event for some time, as they’re currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

    Monday presented what felt like a story of one cold streak continuing to fade away while the other only seems to get icier.

    The positive side: Henrik Lundqvist might just be working through that slump.

    The New York Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for Lundqvist. He made 36 out of 38 stops, giving him a personal three-game winning streak in which he’s allowed just four total goals.

    Some of those stops were pretty impressive, too:

    (He also shut down a Jeff Carter breakaway, which is obviously no easy task.)

    While Lundqvist is getting it together, the Kings might just be a little worried after dropping their fourth straight loss.

    They’re at 48 points in 47 games, leaving them three points behind the West’s two wild card teams and two behind the Canucks.

    The Kings have experience fighting through challenges like these, but they’ve also fallen short of getting into the West’s top eight, and their schedule is awfully road-heavy:

    Tuesday: at Devils
    Thursday: at Hurricanes
    Tuesday, Jan. 31: at Coyotes
    Wednesday, Feb. 1: vs. Avalanche
    Saturday, Feb. 4: at Flyers
    Sunday, Feb. 5: at Capitals
    Tuesday, Feb. 7: at Lightning
    Thursday, Feb. 9: at Panthers

    Some of those opponents are struggling and the All-Star break might allow for a breather, but that could still be a problematic stretch, especially if the Kings are in a fragile state.

    Then again, if they look at Lundqvist’s upward trend, they can note that fortunes can change pretty quickly in 2016-17.