Brad Richards will even admit his first season on Broadway hasn’t gone picture perfect.
Mixed in with four separate point streaks throughout the year, Richards has endured dry spells, including a recent 14-game stretch of just one goal, that have had fans question how wise it was giving the 31 year old former Conn Smythe winner a nine-year contract in the summer.
Richards’ staunchest supporters, including myself, will point to the fact his presence, off-ice mentoring, and wealth of playoff experience are tangibles that have no price tag attached and are more important than a stat line.
Lately, Richards has turned it on offensively, right when the team hit its first legitimate rough patch of the season and the Rangers have climbed out of it on the shoulders of his renewed offensive confidence, closing in on a division title and top seed in the Eastern Conference.
It’s just another chapter in Richards’ book of how to be clutch.
Since exploding onto the scoring scene with new linemates Carl Hagelin and Marian Gaborik in the beginning of the month, Brad Richards has finally looked like the player the Rangers signed on July 1 to help bring a championship back to New York.
The area that’s been most affected by Richards’ resurgence is the team’s power play. While still at times resembling a monkey trying to mount a football, Richards confidently passing the puck and making plays on the man-advantage is exactly what the team needs.
Want more proof Richards is riding high at the moment? Look no further than his two, coast-to-coast power play goals against Detroit last night or against the Islanders March 11. Richards doesn’t even attempt to make those plays if he isn’t confident in his abilities.
Since losing to Chicago 4-3 on March 9, the third consecutive regulation loss at the time (the first occurrence all season), Richards has stepped up offensively, scoring six goals and five assists, including the game-winner against Carolina March 13.
On the season, Richards has eight game-winning goals—good enough for fifth best in the NHL. His career high before this season was six set in 2003-04—the same year he and head coach John Tortorella won their Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Coincidence? We’ll find out soon enough.
Has Brad Richards underperformed in his first year in New York? At various times, without question. There have been stretches throughout the season where Richards was nowhere to be found on the ice. At times, his linemates were Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust—a tactic employed by Torts to try and “jump-start” Richards.
On the other hand, Richards has stuck through the struggles and, with the confidence from his head coach to keep deploying him in key situations despite his poor play, found a way to regain his form.
To date this season, Richards has 24 goals and 33 assists, giving the eternal pessimist a reason to whine that it’s not enough bang for his buck. Maybe when Richards hoists the Stanley Cup in June after another clutch performance they’ll change their tune a bit.