Photo: Amanda Bowen
The Mike Richards era in Washington is officially twenty games old. The Caps signed Richards in early January and, after getting up to speed in practice, he’s been a fixture on the bottom-six and on the penalty kill since then.
Given that he’s playing on a prorated, $1 million deal, had missed about half a season of hockey, and wasn’t able to hold down an NHL job with the LA Kings when he was last under contract, it would be unfair to have anything other than low expectations for the Canadian-born center.
But many of us are rooting for him to find redemption, in part because he is playing for the good guys, but much more so because he deserved better treatment than he got from the Kings at the end of his time there. So, let’s take a look and see how he’s done through his first 20 games in red.
*All numbers are 5v5 and from War on Ice
Richards’ possession numbers, while underwhelming, are fine enough, and certainly nothing too alarming at this point. His goals-for percentage, the percentage of the total goals the Caps score when he’s on the ice, is what stands out, at just 37.5 percent. The team is shooting just 3.7 percent when he’s on the ice, and while Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik are by no means snipers, it’s reasonable to expect to see that number rise a bit, and with it so will the goals-for percentage.
I mentioned above that Richards’ penalty killing is a big part of what makes him so valuable. The more a bottom-six forward can kill penalties, the less a top-six guy like Nicklas Backstrom needs to be out there risking injury on the shorthanded unit.
This chart shows the five-game rolling average of the percentage of total penalty kill time that each forward has played. Richards (black line) has become the Caps’ most used penalty killer.
But the biggest deal here is the decrease in ice time of TJ Oshie (green line) and Nick Backstrom (red line). Since Richards’ arrival, both players, particularly Oshie, have seen a decrease in the amount of time they’ve been killing penalties. The less the offensive weapons from the top line are risking their limbs on the PK, the better.
Not only is Richards the Caps most-used penalty killing forward at the moment, but at 90.1 shot attempts against per 60, the Caps allow the lowest rate of opponent shot attempts when he’s on the ice than any other forward.
Oh, and Richards has won 50.9 percent of the draws he’s taken. That’s cool and all, but remember that faceoffs are just one small portion of the many, many puck battles that go on every game, and their importance is often overstated.
My take on Richards after 20 games: He’s been adequate at 5v5, which is all a team needs from a cheap, fourth-line forward, and he’s been a huge addition to the penalty killing unit, both in performance and the ice time he’s taken from some of the Caps’ top-six forwards.
What do you all think of Richards so far?
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