The 2012-13 season provided a unique set of challenges for center Mike Richards, who was no longer a new personality in the team’s dressing room. After an early transitional period from the lockout into the rapid fire pace of the regular season, Richards was quite productive in an evaluation that goes beyond his well-established, feisty two-way contributions.
In his final 44 games of the season, Richards averaged .73 points per game and was the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs when he was sidelined with a concussion on an unpenalized hit by Chicago’s Dave Bolland late in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Richards returned with a goal and an assist in Game 5 and finished just behind Jeff Carter and Slava Voynov in the team’s postseason scoring.
When speaking with the media following the team’s return to Los Angeles, Richards acknowledged the toll that the 2013 playoff run took on the team while describing the sting of not advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. He also described how the inter-locker room dynamic changed from his first season in Los Angeles.
Mike Richards, on the challenge of the 2013 playoff run, and how this year’s run compared to previous postseason runs from a fatigue factor:
“I’m not sure. That’s a tough question right now. I haven’t had much time to look back on it. I know physically it’s been one of the most grueling, just with the first series, just how physical it was, and the second series going seven games. It was probably up there between this one and a couple years ago when we went to the Finals with Philly, too, we had pretty tough series – one with Boston in seven games – but I think this one was the most physically draining.”
Richards, on the Conference Finals loss:
“Well, it’s always tough when you end the year in a losing way. There’s always that sour taste in your mouth. I thought we played well last night, and I still thought going into [Saturday’s] game, we still believed that we could come back and win. So, really, until that final buzzer, the final goal, I guess, Saturday night, everyone believed that we could win the series and move on, and obviously contend for the Stanley Cup again. So I think that’s just the most frustrating, devastating part of it that you still have belief. I know sometimes you go into a series not knowing or more or less hoping, but I really thought that everybody believed that we could win. We obviously came up short, but I think that’s just the most heartbreaking thing, when you believe you can and maybe even deserve to win [Saturday night], and end up getting the opportunity to and missing some chances and getting a loss, obviously, that’s the most heartbreaking part of it.”
Richards, on any differences between his first and second years in Los Angeles:
“I think you feel more comfortable your second year. Especially after you win a championship, and more so after the first couple months, you start feeling more comfortable and confident to say things in the dressing room. Maybe your first season you’re a little bit tentative to step up in different ways, but I think this year with pretty much the same group as we had last year, I think everybody stepped up in different ways when things needed to be said. I think everybody just is more comfortable with each other. You can say something to somebody where you don’t have to worry about different things being thought about from that player. With that respect that everybody has for each other, and being comfortable with each other, I think that goes a long way on the ice and improving as a hockey team.”