Richards rises to legendary status

Columnist —

Mike Richards didn't hesitate to pick up the Prince of Wales Trophy after the Flyers clinched a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. (Photo: Getty Images)

One shift.

One hit.

One goal.

That’s all it took to make Flyers captain Mike Richards a Philadelphia sports legend.

When we look back after this season has ended, whether the Flyers hoist the Stanley Cup or not, those 45 seconds or so that Richards was on the ice while shorthanded will forever be known as “The Shift.”

As funny as that may sound, that shorthanded goal will go down as one of the greatest individual efforts in Philadelphia sports history.

Richards survived what Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News described as a three-car pileup with Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Roman Hamrlik to net the shorthanded tally to tie the game at 1-1.

The hustle, the grit, and the determination is what made the play so special. The Habs took a quick 1-0 lead just 59 seconds in until the Flyers captain took over the game.

Just seconds before the goal, Richards mashed Marc-Andre Bergeron near the far boards, then after a clearing attempt by Claude Giroux at center ice, Richards skipped his line-change to chase the puck.

Halak made a catastrophic error by leaving his crease to try to beat Richards to the puck.

Fortunately for Richards, he was able to get enough of the puck so it would bounce past the collision of Halak and Hamrlik and backhand the wheeling puck into an empty net.

That was the Flyers first shorthanded tally of the postseason.

“Getting that goal and shorthanded, diving almost ‑‑ he could have hurt himself,” Simon Gagne said.  “He battled right through the end, and a nice pass on Cartsie’s goal, the first one.

“Even on the last one on the empty net, he worked very hard to keep that puck alive for Cartsie.  All the credit for Richie tonight.  He led us to the win.”

Richards, who a few times during this rollercoaster of a season was maligned more than any other player in the city, finally became the captain and leader the entire city were told he could be.

The 25-year-old out of Kenora has played out of sight and out of mind throughout this entire postseason posting 21 points, which is second only behind Blackhawk’s captain Jonathan Toews’ 26.

Richards posted three points in Monday’s series clinching win including two primary assists on Jeff Carter’s two goals.

“That’s why he’s our leader,” Chris Pronger said. “It’s that determination and that grit. You know, diving headfirst for the puck and being the first one up after a big collision like that to try to get free to the loose puck and put it in the empty net.

“You know, that drive, will, and determination shows the type of character he has and the reason why he’s our leader.”

“We have a great team, a lot of belief in our team,” said Richards. “Whenever the chips are down, it seems like we get better. Obviously, we play well as a team and we’re fully confident.

“I don’t want to say destiny or anything, but we have a great team and we feel we have a good chance. We’re going to lay it all out there.”

His confidence in this team spilled though more so when Richards decided to not only touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, but to pick it up and bring it with him to the locker room for the post-game celebration.

“Actually there was a little bit of debate about that on the ice,” Richards said. “I thought about it a bit last night, and my first instinct was to grab it. It took a lot for us to get here. Obviously, it is not the trophy we want. But we haven’t done anything conventional all year, and definitely not in the playoffs.

“Might as well go against the grain one more time.”

Of course, throughout NHL history players have been reluctant to hold or even touch the Prince of Whales trophy. However, in 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby refused to touch the trophy and lost to the Red Wings in the finals. Last season, Crosby didn’t hesitate to pick up the trophy and ended up winner the Stanley Cup.

So, for the sake of the Philadelphia and its die-hard Flyers fans, let’s hope that Richards’ words prove right, and for the first time in 35 years the Flyers will have a parade down Broad St.


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Filed under Chris DiFrancesco, Editorial

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