WILMINGTON, Mass. – Instead of chasing after Philadelphia center Mike Richards like a crazy old lady with a rolling pin in those old cartoons, the Bruins should be trying to emulate the Flyers captain’s hard-nosed, win-at-all cost approach to the game.
Whereas that attitude sometimes shines through in the Bruins’ play, it never wanes in Richards. That’s why he’s been a huge factor in the Flyers’ ability to prevent the Eastern Conference semifinal series with Boston from ending, and why there’s so much momentum Philly’s way heading into Game 6 Wednesday with them still down 3-2.
When Bruins center Marc Savard first retaliated against a Richards hit by going after the center with his gloves on and his stick still in hand, and then second used his postgame time with the media Monday to throw out veiled accusations of Richards being a dirty player, he came off as disingenuous. Savard tried to compare the hit Richards threw at him in Game 5 to ones that injured David Krejci in Game 3 and Florida’s David Booth earlier this season. But just like the previous two Richards hits, the Flyers center’s check on Savard was a clean shoulder to the body blow. The hit on Booth was obviously a tad high, but it was within the rules of the time. And no one can ever get inside Richards’ head to determine his intent.
One day after their embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Flyers in Game 5, other Bruins were more respectful and understanding of what Richards is trying to do.
“In any playoff series, I think your top guys are targeted. You try to get under their skin, you try to let them know that they’re not just going to float around and maybe that’s what he was doing on that play,” said defenseman Matt Hunwick, who also gave Richards the best description a Philadelphia player can get.
“He’s going to finish checks, he’s going to do whatever it takes to win. He’s definitely a Flyer. So he’s a good player.”
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk also characterized Richards as clean.
“I think he’s just trying to play hard. If he gets somebody in his sights to hit him, he’s going to hit him. You know he’s probably not going to try to do it dirty. If he does, then we’ll take exception. If he has a clean hit, you can’t really do too much about that,” said Boychuk.
That’s a breath of fresh air that the Bruins aren’t sitting around pointing fingers and accusing Richards of any dirty tricks. Hopefully, they realize that not only is Richards an honest player that epitomizes what hockey should be all about, but they could all afford to incorporate some of Richards’ style of play into their own games.
No less than Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton explained playing against Richards like this:
“He plays with an edge, so he plays hard. He’s a pain in the ass to play against,” said the winger. “Those are the types of guys you hate playing against and you’d love to have on your team. So he’s doing what he thinks he needs to do to help his team.”
In Game 5, the Bruins had no one that could hold a candle to Richards in the heart and grit departments. To their credit, they made it this far in the playoffs by playing the type of hockey that you attribute to Richards, to the best contending teams of recent years and to the glorious Bruins teams of the recent past.
Now they just need to get back to playing a brand hockey that might leave the Flyers complaining and might make Richards find out how hard it is to play against someone like him.