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While he has yet to register a point in his Capitals career, veteran center Mike Richards has played surprisingly well, albeit rusty, in the three games he’s played.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion has returned to game action sooner than expected, as he had gone nearly a year without being in game action. But since stepping in, he’s been one of the Caps’ most effective face off men and a reliable penalty killer.
But despite a three-game sample size, Richards and the Caps are a perfect match, and it’s not just because he’s played well in three games. Richards is a proven winner and having played with offseason signing Justin Williams in Los Angeles, he’s won his aforementioned two Cups. What many people may not realize, is that, like Williams, Richards is also 7-0 in career Game 7’s. And during those two championship runs combined, Richards had 25 points in 46 games. Richards’ experience will benefit the Caps during the playoffs.
Richards was not too long ago, considered one of the top two-way forwards in the NHL, finishing as a finalist for the Selke Trophy (given to the NHL’s best defensive forward) twice; he narrowly missed out in 2009 to Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, with the votes being 945 to 942. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz preaches a strong 200-foot game and Richards has done a fine job of playing to those expectations. In the three games he’s played, he’s an even plus/minus, has averaged 12:24 minutes of ice time, and has won 60% of his face-offs.
While he’ll no doubt be an important leader come playoff time, Richards plays the style of hockey that the Washington Capitals demand all of their players play. While he has shown signs of rust, Richards should get better once he plays more. And if he shows that he still can play at the NHL level, he could return for another season with the Capitals. But again, it is still far too early to determine if he’d be a good fit for the Caps. But from what he’s shown thus far, Richards could turn out to be worth the risk for Washington.
By Michael Fleetwood