Richards during Thursday’s morning skate. (Photo: Chris Gordon)
In Game One, a late game boarding penalty by Tom Wilson almost ended in disaster for Washington. If the Flyers had not retaliated, they would have had their seventh man-advantage of the game with a chance to tie the game. Wilson, however, also showed restraint against the Flyers, a team that has had price on his head ever since his rookie season.
“I think Willy has done a really good job the last little while of being disciplined and backing off any hits,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the game.
Wilson moderation came earlier in the game when Brayden Schenn, who Wilson infamously charged three seasons ago, delivered at hard hit on Mike Richards. Wilson briefly considered engaging in vigilantism until Richards stepped in.
“You do what you have to do,” Richards said of the incident. “Willy’s a really high energetic player. That’s the way you want to see him play. He wants to stick up for his teammates, but at the same time you have to understand the situation.”
Richards admitted that when he was a younger player, he would likely have done the same thing as Wilson.
“You go through playoff series, games, seasons and you learn from it — especially a playoff series,” Richards said of Wilson. “It’s Game One. You’re gonna have a chance to finish your check on him later on. I think it looked a lot worse than it was which he probably reacted to, but that’s walking the fine line that he plays with and what makes him so good. He’s a smart player. He plays with emotion which he’s really good at. He sticks up for his teammates. He has all the qualities that you want, it’s just that certain parts of the game in a playoff series you don’t want to take penalties. He did a good job restraining himself.”
Richards, out of hockey just months ago, has become another voice of reason in the Capitals locker room. Justin Williams, who advocated signing him in Washington, won two Stanley Cups with Richards in LA. Combined, they’ve kissed the Cup five times. Richards, meanwhile, has been a team captain twice in his hockey career, including with the Flyers. Richards’s time in Philly ended when he was traded to LA for Schenn.
“You saw it on the ice, the gamesmanship, you saw it on the bench and especially in our locker room before the game and in between periods,” Trotz said of Richards and Williams. “They have a great ability to pull everyone into the fight or everyone back into focus. That’s a tremendous quality to have. You can tell that they are winners.”
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