Mike Richards has won a Stanley Cup and a Calder Cup in addition to gold medals at the Olympics and World Junior Championships, and recently became the only player in NHL history to participate and emerge victorious in two playoff series in which his team trailed three games to none (Jeff Carter, whose name is also associated with that feat, was injured and did not play in Philadelphia’s “reverse sweep” of Boston in 2010).
Though Richards continued his traditional postseason scoring with 27 points through 35 playoff games in 2012 and 2013, his 2014 postseason campaign has represented a continuation of the scoring struggles he experienced during his third season in Los Angeles. He has two assists through nine games.
Having been held without a goal since the Kings’ 5-4 shootout win at the Capitals on March 25, Richards was asked if his scoring slump has left him frustrated.
“Yeah, frustrated could be a good way to say it, I guess. You always want to help the team win,” he answered. “Whether it’s scoring goals or doing different things, you try to help in any way possible. Obviously scoring goals would be nice. I’m not going to lie, but you can’t get frustrated. If you show frustration, that kind of trickles throughout the team too. It’s not a selfish thing. It’s not a personal thing. It’s all about the team right now and it’s all about winning hockey games. Obviously you want to contribute with scoring goals, but at the same time we’re winning hockey games right now, and have to just keep doing the same things to do to help the team.”
Over his last 40 regular season and playoff games, Richards has four goals and eight points. His level of play doesn’t appear to have deteriorated; he recorded eight shots on goal and was among the Kings’ most effective forwards in the 5-1 Game 7 win over San Jose in the first round.
“He’s second on our team in shots, next to Gaborik. That’s significant,” Darryl Sutter said.
He’s also playing tough defensive minutes and limiting key players on opposing teams.
“It’s penalty killing, playing physical. It’s winning faceoffs, everything kind of goes into helping the team win,” Richards said. “Like I said, scoring goals would be nice and it obviously shows up at the end of the game on the game sheet, but there is a lot more. I’d rather be even or a plus player than score a goal and be a minus player. It’s just about helping the team. Like I said, faceoffs and playing physical and killing penalties and all that stuff kind of goes towards helping the team and eventually that puck is going to go in, I think.”
With no goals on 23 shots, there’s certainly some bad luck involved in his postseason performance. Having received ample even strength time with Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis, his line has forechecked well and added an energetic, physical element.
Clifford, particularly early in Monday’s Game 2 win over Anaheim, has provided energy and quality minutes as of late.
“Those things that I was just saying about helping the team win, he does a lot of those,” Richards said of Clifford. “He’s probably our most physical guy every night. He works hard. He’s probably a tough guy to play against if you’re on the other team. Just with how hard he works and he keeps the game simple and he gets in on the forecheck. If things aren’t going very well and he’s on the ice, he definitely can create momentum with the style of play that he has with finishing checks and getting in. Really breaking up a lot of their momentum building on the offensive end too, he can crash and bang, too.”
Mike, Richards, on having momentum in Round Two:
Yeah, I still think we can play better. It’s obviously a good start to the series. Coming home with a 2-0 lead is – you’re hopeful of it, but you don’t really expect it. But we know how quick a series can change. They’re going to come out with their best effort tomorrow. Obviously a place we’re comfortable playing in too, so we have to come out with our best effort. It’s just all about Thursday night right now. We just have to be ready for them. Like I said, the series, momentum and everything can switch shift to shift. We have to be ready to play a good game. [Reporter: You learned from the last series with San Jose how quickly things can turn around.] We know firsthand how quick it can change. We’ve played well at home, but sometimes haven’t had the results that we want. It’s a matter of bounces. It’s a matter of getting some lucky plays and just playing well enough to win isn’t always the best. So we have to be ready with our best effort.
Richards, on having two days off between games:
I think just getting rest at any time is good for us. It doesn’t matter what the series is at, any time you can get a couple days between games is beneficial for us and probably for them as well.
Richards, on sensing frustration from Anaheim:
Like you said, they’re obviously frustrated. You don’t want to be down. There was probably some frustration with us too last series when we went down 2-0. I think it’s just a product of what’s going on, on the ice. Being down 2-0, you’re obviously going to be frustrated. Like I said, we have to expect their best hockey game and their best players to be the best players. We have to match that, if not better at the start at home.
Richards, on whether Anze Kopitar is elevating his game:
It’s been a while. He’s been doing this for years and this might be as good as I’ve ever seen him play. But he might be getting a little more attention now with the Selke nomination and obviously doing extremely well with putting up points. It’s not just the points with him. He does the same things I was just talking about too. He blocks shots, he kills penalties, he takes every big faceoff, he plays at the end of games and I could probably sit here for five minutes and tell you what he does good. This is probably the best I’ve ever seen him play.