Brad Richards is off to a promising start

B-Rich has started well

B-Rich has started well

Highlighted by his two goal performance in the impressive win over the Kings, Brad Richards has started the season well; which is a great sign for the Rangers. Having played a lackluster preseason – which came on the heels of his well documented (abysmal) 2012-13 season –  Richards has begun to lay to rest the lingering concerns for this season.

He is skating well, looking to put the puck on net, and is getting separation from defenseman – something he did all too rarely last season. Perhaps most importantly is the lack of blind, drop passes on the blue line which were littered throughout his play last season.

While it’s only two games in to the new season – one of which was the sloppy Coyotes’ loss – the start laid down by Richard’s bodes well for the team. An in-form Richards would be hugely beneficial because, while Derek Stepan was much improved against the Kings (wasn’t everyone?), Stepan still has work to do to get back to his form of a year ago. If Richards can give the Rangers a strong year it’ll give the Rangers excellent depth down the middle.

We saw against the Kings how depth at center can have a huge impact. It shouldn’t go unnoticed how Brian Boyle won a big faceoff on the penalty kill before the comical Ryan McDonagh/Jon Quick goal that iced last night’s game for the Rangers. Sometimes it’s the small plays that make the big difference.

If the Rangers can continue to get production and big plays from the centers not named Derek Stepan, it should open up more opportunities for the likes of Rick Nash to excel. An old cliché but there is certainly truth in that if a team can control centre ice they always stand a chance to win.

Back to Richards. While his second goal against the Kings was fortunate – banked off a trailing defenseman and past Quick – his first goal offered a glimpse of what Richards can provide when on his game. Positioned to the left of Quick, Richards found the puck and showed excellent reactions to control the puck with his skate and put it on his stick before finishing from a tight angle. The reaction and finish suggested Richards’s game is already sharper than it was last year. All this came on the back of a solid season opening performance against the Coyotes where Richards was one of few Rangers who distinguished themselves at all.

It could be a flash in the pan and certainly, the road trip out west could make or break several players’ seasons before they start for real, but at this stage Brad Richards start is encouraging. This is all we could ask for one week into October. Maybe Alain Vigneault can breathe new life into a player most Rangers fans had already emotionally discarded.

25 Responses to “Brad Richards is off to a promising start”

  1. SteveD says:

    “and is getting separation from defenseman”

    Very good observation. So important for the O to be successful for sure.

    Had to listen to the LA announcers last night. They pointed out that AV’s style with a lead is to use all of your energy on D and if you have the puck in there end, sort of take it easy and use less energy. That could be very good for our veteran players as the season goes on. Thought it was an interesting point.

    • Dave says:

      That may have been his style in Vancouver, but he has a different team in New York. I saw this team still attack with a two goal lead in the final period.

      • Centerman21 says:

        I thought I saw them move to the 1-2-2 in the 3rd but they used it aggressively. Very encouraging to see teams get stopped in the neutral zone. Turnovers happen and chances from having the lead. First forward was in deep forcing the play. I liked the play from the 4th line. They forechecked well too!

        • Dave says:

          Suit pointed this out the other day, but they will always be running a 1-2-2. It’s not as aggressive as Torts’ 2-1-2, but it can still be used aggressively.

          • The Suit says:

            Correction. They run a 2-1-2 as well, it’s secondary to the 1-2-2. Both were used aggressively. However, it’s too soon to know what they’ll do with a late lead. Last night they had to keep the pedal to the metal since the Kings were coughing up the puck left and right.

    • pavel says:

      Did not see them taking it easy. Rangers pressed the gas pedal all the way down in the last 10min of the game.

      • Dave says:

        Yup. They had some spots where they got caught running around, but that had nothing to do with protecting the lead.

    • Walt says:

      Steve

      Could it be that skating with both Nash, and Step is a possible reason for his creating seperation from the defenseman??? Last season, I don’t remember him ever skating with Step on even strength play like last night.

      As I posted earlier, let’s see what he does in the heat of the run to make a play-off spot! I suspect he will run out of gas, and not be near as effective as he may have looked in game #2.

      • Dave says:

        It could be that, it could also be that increased depth has forced the opposition to split their best defenders a bit.

        Or it could be that he’s in better shape, and AV’s less skating intensive system is better suited for an aging guy like him.

      • Centerman21 says:

        In his 1st season in ny Richards got better as the season went along. The last month of that year, he was the Rangers best Centerman & maybe the best offensive player. His line w/ Gabby and Hagelin was the hottest in the NHL. Good players get to play with good players. It has nothing to do with who he’s playing with now just as then. Richards also led the team in points in the playoffs with 15. He gets better as the games get more important.

  2. Dave says:

    Great stuff Chris.

    When am I allowed to say I told you so?

    • Chris says:

      Thanks amigo. I thought he could do it, just wasn’t sure. As I wrote a while back; think he’s focussed – his skating extensivel before camp seems to be paying off

      • The Suit says:

        When he does it in the postseason

        • Dave says:

          Challenge accepted. Wager?

          • The Suit says:

            It’s not so much as a challenge for me. I’m just trying to keep you from doing an “I told you so” post prematurely.

            If I win, I’m not going to gloat. I’ll just want the Rangers to buy him out and allocate that cap elsewhere. Which they should probably do even if he does have a good season.

            • Dave says:

              The buyout is coming, that’s for sure. At this point, they have to. I figure Stepan-Brassard-Lindberg-Boyle down the middle next year.

              • Rockdog says:

                I hope that you are right … that has the potential to be a very solid core of Cs.

        • Walt says:

          Suit

          I’m in your corner. What, we agree twice in the same week!!

          • Dave says:

            Walt, we’ve all been agreeing with you lately. I was actually about to shoot you an email and ask if it was actually you or not!

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      The decision to not buy him out was (and still is) a risky one, due to the injury risk, but he has looked good in this small sample of games.

      More importantly, if Richards keeps this up, will AV move him back to center? Does he stay on a line with Nash or center the second line?

      • Dave says:

        The injury risk is definitely the big risk, but when it comes to market value, I’d rather have Richards for 1/$6.6m than Ribiero for 4/$5.5m.

        • Chris says:

          Excellent point Sir. Much less with Richie than there is with mid tier vets getting top tier $/term. Even in a down year BR was a known quantity and att he very least a respected veteran. Hopefully he can sustain this solid start.

  3. paulronty says:

    Richards was quick on the puck last night, but I don’t think he should play the point on the PP. Kings had two excellent chances shorthanded. Fourth line really struggled out there & other than a fight Asham did little. That line needs a speedy winger, I’d rather see Fast out there. Gotta give Pyatt some dibs as I thought he played a strong game.

    • Dave says:

      Yea, that fourth line had some issues. Don’t think Fast helps them though. Sutter did a great job getting his top line out there against them.