Richards Shows Up, Flyers Throttle Leafs
The Philadelphia Flyers’ home stand was quite disappointing leading up to the finale against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night. Troubles of inconsistent play, frustrating penalties and lack of leadership on the ice struck the wrong nerves with the fans. Enter, Mike Richards. Although seemingly invisible most of the home stand, he stepped up when the team needed it most and helped spur the team’s 5-2 victory.
Interestingly enough, the spark that really ignited the Flyers Saturday night was a fight between Dan Carcillo and Mike Brown. It seemed like the same lethargic team that the fans have grown accustomed to recognizing this season took the ice. But, after Carcillo’s trip to the penalty box, the Flyers clearly woke up and seized hold of the game. The irony in Carcillo’s fight was that he had been a healthy scratch in recent games. Fans and news reporters alike have wondered where he fit on the team. Why was he so ineffective in the games he had played? Was the team irritated with his choice to call out Coach Peter Laviolette’s decision to scratch him? Had he lost the energy on the fore check and agitating qualities that made him an effective player for the Flyers last season? His energy was great on Saturday, and his fight was just what the team needed to wake from their doldrums.
There has always been an interesting dynamic with Richards and Carcillo. Richards has minced no words in the past when he’s been asked to elaborate on why he likes having the agitator on his line. When Carcillo brings energy to the club, Richards has always seemed to feed off that energy. Richards was the best player on the ice Saturday, make no mistake about it. He was what every Captain is supposed to be for his team. He played hard, he produced, and he was efficient. His leadership was pivotal in taking the lead, extending the lead, and putting the lead out of reach on Saturday. The best of Mike Richards is what many saw in his performance in the Eastern Conference Finals against Montreal last season. After practically vanishing in the Stanley Cup Finals and subsequently, being nonexistent in the first six games of the season, I wondered where his spark had gone. His spark may be the play of Dan Carcillo. And while I don’t think a player of Richards caliber should ever vanish on the ice for extended periods of time, I was glad to see him back.
After the curb-stomping that Pittsburgh had put on the Flyers last Saturday, I felt that Richards’ comments about the officiating and Matt Cooke may help spur his emotion. I was sorely mistaken as his performance against Anaheim wasn’t much better. Although the team outshot Anaheim badly, they couldn’t score on the power play and they continued to take ridiculous penalties. The problems weren’t directly attributable to Richards, but there is cause for concern that he may not be setting the model for consistency for the team, as his job description should entail. Richards helped snap the streak of impotence for the power play Saturday night, and in doing so, he forged ahead. Like a Captain should.
As well as Richards played, it should be noted that the rest of the boys in orange played almost equally as well. Blocked shots, outshooting the opponent 40-14, and staying out of the penalty box were all huge strides for a team that had been badly outplayed for long stretches this season. One of the most encouraging signs of the night may have been when James van Riemsdyk was boarded by Colby Armstrong. Every man in orange jumped in to stand up for their teammate. That wasn’t the most encouraging sign of the night, however.
That would be number 18.