Friday, February 20, 2009

What Up, Shorty?

Anyone happen to catch the Flyers game last night? Well, uh, if you didn't, Mike Richards kindly would like to remind you that he is, in fact, the best player and best captain this city has seen since a pre-concussion Eric Lindros, no disrespect to Keith Primeau (Much disrespect to Eric Desjardins). In case you haven't heard, Richards posted a career-high 5 points and, well, I'll let Puck Daddy take it away:

No. 1 star, Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers:
Thursday night's game against visiting Buffalo was the 264th of Mike Richards' career, and statistically it goes down as his best night in the NHL. Richards scored two goals and added three assists for a career-high five points as the Flyers doubled up the Sabres, 6-3. Richards assisted on his team's first two goals, then took it upon himself to score the next pair
[Ed note: he didn't socre the next two. Knuble was sandwiched between his first and second]– the first of which was a league-leading sixth short-handed goal. Richards, with 22 goals and 57 points, was a plus-5 – don't see that very often – with five shots, two blocks, three hits during 22:22 of ice time. He won 17 of 24 faceoff, too. Oh, and he locked all the doors before being last to leave the arena.

What he's trying to say is, Mike Richards is a beast. And honestly, he has to be the single most intimidating penalty-killer in hockey, because at any moment, he can make a one-man disadvantage into an odd-man rush in his favor. It's frightening. Last night, with the game tied in the second, Kimmo Timonen and Richards, after a blocked shot, broke out on a 2-on-1 shorthanded, and Kimmo laid an incredible saucer pass over to Mr. Shorty, who one-armed it past Ryan Miller to put the Flyers ahead, scoring his 6th shorty of the year.

Last night, it was Richards' show from the onset. He started on a line with Darroll Powe and Scottie Upshall, found himself on the ice with Glen Metropolit and Aaron Asham when Metropolit scored (with an assist from Richards) and then finally settled back on the top line with Knuble and Gagne—a line that proved to be incredibly dominate in the second and third periods.

In a game that could only be described as back-and-forth, in which the Flyers failed to capitalized on a dominate first period, scoring only once, the Sabres hung around and eventually took the lead. John Stevens was back to his old line-shuffling self, which drives me fucking nuts, and the Flyers couldn't really get any continuity going, although they weren't playing bad.

Then, finally, mercifully, Stevens kept his reunited top line in tact, and it went nuts.

On a ridiculously awesome shift in the 2nd, the Flyers were hounding the Sabres in the offensive zone for what seemed like a solid 2 minutes, getting incredible chances, and finally, after a failed clear, Richards sent a pass along to Gagne, who hit Braydon Coburn, who had crept in from the point, with a perfect pass. Coburn banged it home, and the top line never looked back.

In the final period, the trio of Knuble-Richards-Gagne was unstoppable, and ultimately, the line that won the game. With the game tied, Gagne and Richards set up Knuble for the game-winning power play goal, and Richards and Powe added empty-netters for good measure.

Marty Biron had himself another solid, if unspectacular game. He should have definitely stopped one of Buffalo's goals, but he did make 39 saves on 42 shots. All told, not too shabby.

But it was Richards who stole the show. With all the talk of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin (and rightfully so), Richards is a guy who seemingly goes under the radar to the general public. But ask any expert and he'll tell you, Richards is just as important to the Flyers as those two guys are for the Penguins and Capitals. Surely, Crosby and Ovechkin are great players. So is Mike Richards, who seemingly has no weakness to this game. He hits. He can skate. He can score. He can pass. He plays defense as well as any forward in the league. He mans the point or plays down low on the power play. He kills penalties. He's decent at face-offs (definitely not great though). Oh, and he scores more shorthanded goals than anyone.

Mike Richards is a super star. At least, he should be.

BallHype: hype it up!

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