The Rangers needed to win the game last night. Their entire club had been thoroughly outplayed by the Senators from Game Two through Game Five, and it appeared that the Rangers were getting beaten in every facet of the game (except penalty killing). That is where Brad Richards needed to step up. He was brought in not just for his offensive skill and ability to run the powerplay, but for his leadership and his ability to take over a game when needed. He did just that last night.
Richards may not have been awarded a star of the game last night, but he was instrumental to the Rangers success in forcing Game Seven. As Suit pointed out in his goal breakdown, Richards made a beautiful pass to Derek Stepan to tie the game, and then took a perfect shot to give the Rangers the lead nine minutes later. Those points were critical, and catapulted the Rangers towards their victory.
But it’s more than just the score sheet with Richards. The powerplay looked dominant. Richards was moving the puck around as the quarterback in a way the Rangers haven’t seen since Brian Leetch. They generated chances off crisp passing and cycling the puck. They took shots from the point, forcing the forwards to respect the shot, which opened up opportunities down low. The powerplay wasn’t perfect, but it sure was an improvement.
His presence was shown in the face off circle. Despite an abysmal first period in the face off circle, where Zenon Konopka owned him, Richards won key face off after key face off, and his face off wins were critical in generating scoring chances on the powerplay. Great players make adjustments. It appears Richards made an adjustment in the face off circle, and it showed in the final two periods.
Brad Richards was brought in to fill a hole as a top line center, powerplay quarterback, and leader on this team. While noticeably absent from the scoring sheet in all but two games prior to last night, Richards came alive last night. Maybe it was a long time coming, as there were signs he was coming around prior to last night. But this is the Richards the Rangers need to win. This is the Richards that the Rangers need to see game-in and game-out to even stand a chance.