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Will Mike Richards Lead the Flyers to Victory?

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Flyers Captain Mike Richards

 

Mike Richards has been the Flyers captain for the last two seasons now. Last offseason, the Flyers signed Chris Pronger. Many people wondered if Pronger, a future Hall of Famer who has his name on the Stanley Cup, would be named captain.

Then 24 years of age, Richards remained captain.

The questions kept coming as the Flyers started off slowly, so slowly, in fact, that they got their coach, John Stevens fired.

There were lofty expectations for this team before the season. The Hockey News picked them to win the Stanley Cup. There was a buzz, an excitement about the team. It fizzled through uninspired play, injuries, and a freakish winter in the Mid-Atlantic.

When the Flyers were mentioned, the most common response was, “When do pitchers and catchers report?”

A lot of the blame for that was laid at the feet of Mike Richards. As The Captain, frankly, it comes with the territory. The issue here was two-fold. One, he’s so young, and two, the large, large shadow of Chris Pronger.

The team got hot. Then they got cold. Then they stumbled to the finish, making the playoffs on the final play of the regular season, a shoot out save by Brian Boucher.

(By the way, do the Flyers have a Hot Tub Time Machine or something? Boucher was as good as he was in the 2000 playoffs until he got hurt. I gotta get me some of that.)

You know the story. They manhandled the Devils in 5 games. We won’t rehash the historic comeback against Boston. (Sigh. Click here if you must.)

Then came the most storied franchise of them all. The Montreal Canadiens. There are those that say that they are the New York Yankees of hockey. Those people would be wrong. The Yankees have nothing on Les Habitantes.

I have watched Yankee games, in the old and new Yankees stadiums. I get nothing from it. No emotion. No love. No respect. I hate the Yankees.

Watching a game at the Bell Centre (or the old Forum) gives me goose bumps ON TV. That is hallowed ground. It is indescribably loud ON TV. Have to go there before I die. Suffice it to say, I have an enormous amount of respect for the Canadiens.

But I digress.

The Flyers took game one in a rout, 6-0. Game two was a rout on the scoreboard also, 3-0. But it was a lot closer than that. The Habs outplayed the Flyers for at least the first half of the game, but had nothing to show for it. Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, apparently channelling the spirit of the 1987 Ron Hextall, was outstanding.

Then came Game three.

In the Bell Centre.

Montreal in a laugher, 5-1. And it wasn’t that close.

Now here is where the young captain comes in. How does your team react to getting its breakfast, lunch, dinner and fourthmeal(tm) handed to them?

Chris Pronger thought it was funny. He was terrible in game three.

In his defense, he tends to laugh like that after games, no matter the result.

The Captain wasn’t laughing.

“That was just an old-fashioned (butt)-kicking and they handed it right to us right from the get-go,” he said. “I don’t know if we thought we just had to throw our sticks on the ice and it was going to be easy.”

That is a disturbing statement.

What makes you think that you can go into hockey’s most hallowed ground and “just…throw (your) sticks on the ice” and beat a desperate Montreal team?

I was concerned with the way the Flyers lost. Sloppy in their own end, terrible giveaways, Leighton coming back to earth, it was bad from beginning to end.

It happens.

How do you react?

How did the Captain react?

He was angry. Which is a good thing.

He added, “You always say you want to move on to the next game and forget about the last one, but maybe, hopefully, we can take this bitter taste in our mouth into the next game.”

They’d better. See, after the Comeback and going up so convincingly in the first two games, The Captain and his boys have gotten our hopes up. At first, we were content with getting into the playoffs.

Now we want the whole thing. Can The Captain deliver?

We will find out Saturday on that hallowed ice.

I say yes.

Flyers 4, Canadiens 2.

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Written by CrawleyAndWatts

May 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

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