Photo: Rob Carr
When the Capitals signed Mike Richards to a $1 million, one-year contract on January 6, Washington head coach Barry Trotz forecasted that the former Flyers and Kings forward would make his debut against the Anaheim Ducks on January 22 at Verizon Center. Richards hadn’t played since last April after having his contract voided by the Los Angeles Kings over the summer.
“There’s no assurances in anything, in life,” Trotz said at the time.
But after seeing Richards quickly get his legs under him and adapt to the Capitals’ system, Trotz had Richards debut almost a week earlier than planned when he skated on Washington’s fourth line on Saturday night in Buffalo.
“I probably went into this weekend thinking maybe in the seven-, eight-minute range,” Trotz said Sunday night, referring to Richards’s ice time. “Seven to eight minutes in the first game and seven to eight minutes in the second. Probably 10 at the high end.”
Despite a 4-1 Capitals loss, Richards was fantastic on Saturday, skating over 13 minutes, including a stellar three minutes spent penalty killing. One day later, Richards skated nearly 12 minutes against the New York Rangers. He spent another three minutes on Washington’s shorthanded unit, which was perfect in four opportunities.
“What you see is how competitive he is,” said Trotz. “You can skate all you want in practice, but when the game is happening there’s a fire inside that young man.”
Richards also won 14 of 20 faceoffs.
“Here’s a guy that hasn’t played in eight months and he’s 14 for 20 against some pretty good people out there,” Trotz said.
In addition to his fourth line and PK role, Richards took a few shifts with the Capitals’ vaunted second line and would have scored if not for an amazing paddle save by Antti Raanta.
Richards threw his body around early in the game.
While Richards has impressed on the ice, Trotz also praised the character of Richards and teammate Justin Williams, who both won Stanley Cups with the Kings.
“I see why [Williams] has won everywhere he’s gone — Mike Richards too,” Trotz said. “They’re just leading by example. There’re not doing anything else but just leading by example. … They bring a competitive nature, all those leadership qualities, and they’re really good people.”
In two games, Richards, a former Canadian gold medalist at the Olympics, has shown himself to be a worthy addition to the team.
“I know all about him,” Williams told me. “I know what he can do. He’s just getting his feet wet right now.”
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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