Both are one the best captains in the NHL, two of the top stars in the entire league, were linemates in the 2010 Olympics for the Gold medal winning team Canada.
They are the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and Flyers’ Mike Richards.
Of all the interesting matchups leading into Saturday nights game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, Richards vs. Toews is probably the most anticipated.
Both captains of their respective franchise were given the ‘C’ at young ages. Richards was 23-years old, and Toews was the third youngest player to ever grace the leadership role at only 20-years old.
Richards, who has become one of the NHL’s top clutch performers over the past two years, has really come into his own since he won Gold in Vancouver back in February. The experience of winning where every game was a pressure situation helped Richards’ development of becoming a better captain.
“They became better leaders because they won the gold,” said teammate Ian Laperriere.
“When you have a season like we had with all the ups and downs it can’t be a great time all the time. We’re in the business of winning and when you are not wining it’s not fun coming to the rink. Winning takes care of everything.”
According to Richards, the Olympics were a growing experience, and it definitely helped him get through the tough times the Flyers went through this season.
“There is so much pressure throughout the tournament,” said Richards referring to the Olympic games. “The way [Team Canada] dealt with it and got better throughout the two-week period. You learn how to deal with pressure and you see different players who have been there before and how they deal with pressure.
“It’s being calm and trying to be solid throughout it to calm everyone else down. I think that is where it helped out. Everyone was so calm and relaxed… The biggest thing is trying to enjoy it rather than be scared of it.”
Its become quite obvious that Richards has risen his game to a whole new level during these playoffs and the Chicago Blackhawks should expect nothing less from Richards when the puck drops Sat.
Whatever the case, Richards has played like a man possessed and is among the league leaders in all the statistical categories in these playoffs.
How about that other guy? Oh, that’s right, the NHL’s leading Conn Smythe nominee, Jonathan Toews.
Toews, 22, leads all players with 26 playoff points and has been the main catalyst for the Blackhawks return to the Stanley Cup finals. Toews currently holds the franchise record for recording a point in 13 straight playoff games.
The Blackhawks captain is almost the same model of Richards. They both have the grit, heart, and most importantly the desire to win.
Both Richards and Toews aren’t players like Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Both play hard along the boards, win key draws, and always get themselves into high-traffic areas.
Furthermore, its become a pretty amazing story that Richards and Toews, once were teammates celebrating a Gold medal victory in Vancouver, now their facing off against each other for the NHL’s ultimate prize.
If the Blackhawks are going to take the Cup home, Toews is going to have to continue playing out of his mind. If Toews is off his game just a little bit, the Flyers will pounce on the opportunity to keep their foot on the Hawks’ throat.
“Game to game, you try to contribute any way you can, whether it’s killing penalties, scoring goals, winning draws, whatever it is,” Toews told the Chicago Tribune. “Not everything’s going to go your way every single night, but you have to find a way to keep inching forward and help your team.”
It’s obvious that both Richards and Toews have more than stepped up their game to get their respective in the top two for the greatest trophy in sports.
Now, the final chapter will have to be written by one of these two top captains. Will Richards or Toews become one of only few players to have ever won both a Gold Medal and Stanley Cup in one season?
One will accomplish that historical feat, while the other will just have to wait.