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Postgame: Flyers @ Capitals 4/13/2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Game 2 was a textbook game for the Flyers.  Great goaltending to weather the 10 minutes opening onslaught from the Capitals, utilizing turnovers to score, and perfect penalty killing.  And they kept attacking – they don’t say the best defense is a great offense for nothing.

The NBC broadcast team spent significant amounts of time dissecting Mike Richards, and everyone except Mike Milbury voicing their approval of the Flyers’ $69 million man.  Their constant references to the statistics and his similarity to Bobby Clarke were wonderful and I won’t recycle them here.  But I did want to highlight a key moment from this afternoon that shows beyond numbers why Richards is so incredibly valuable.

The Capitals entered the third period with a little jump in their step.  Perhaps inspired memories of Game 1’s comeback, the younsters pushed hard towards the Flyers’ net for the first five minutes of that period.  Braydon Coburn took a delay-of-game for lifting the puck out of the zone, and Nicklas Backstrom got away with an elbow to Richards’ face.  The Flyers’ struggled to maintain composure, and the Capitals looked as though they might just regain control of the series.

On his first shift following the penalty kill, Richards stole the puck in the neutral zone, carried it across the blue line and set up a cycle with linemates Lupul and Umberger.  The three players, almost without any assistance from the defenseman, managed to hold the puck down low and win battles along the boards.  They spent the entire shiftn the Capitals’ zone, stealing away any momentum the Capitals had gained in the opening minutes of the period.  Richards’ determination to uphold the attack mindset rubbed off on his teammates and effectively closed the door on a Capitals comeback.

The goals and faceoff wins and clean hits are huge, especially in the playoffs.  And Richards can produce all those things in all-star fashion.  But he’s a $5 million per year asset because he makes the little plays like turnovers that change momentum at crucial moments, willing his team to a victory. 
Journalists asked Bruce Boudreau in his postgame press conference why the Flyers were the victorious team today.  His response:  the Flyers brought a winning mindset to the rink and used that to outwork the Capitals.  That covers Biron’s performance in goal, Richards’ performance throughout the game, and the solid performances from the role players.  As a Flyers fan, I hope we see that same mindset return three more times.

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