NEW YORK - The reunion of Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis is finally yielding some tangible results and there are signs the best is yet to come.
Things didn’t go as smoothly as most thought they would upon the arrival of St. Louis at the NHL trade deadline in a rare swap of captains that saw Ryan Callahan shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Being put together on a line didn’t bring immediate chemistry, but Richards and St. Louis have found a way get it done on separate units, sharing time only on the power play.
St. Louis needed some time to find his way and after recording only one goal and eight points in 19 games after the trade, the skilled forward is leading the Rangers in playoff scoring with two goals and six points heading into Game 6 on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
Right behind him is Richards, who has two goals and five points in five games against the Flyers as the Rangers built a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven match-up.
“Those guys have got to share their experiences with our players and help them focus on the right thing,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “The right things are not the outcomes, but the process.”
Richards and St. Louis won a Stanley Cup together with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2004 so knowing the process is something that comes with the territory.
“It’s hard to believe it was 2007 the last time we were in the playoffs together,” said Richards. “It feels normal and it’s fun to be back talking hockey, talking about the playoffs and trying to figure out how to win.”
Richards was asked if he has had to shoulder more of the leadership burden after the departure of Callahan?
“Probably a little bit, yeah,” said Richards, who has 30 goals and 83 points in 98 playoff games. “You’ve got to try to figure it out when a captain leaves the room, (whether) it’s by committee or whatever it is. There are certain responsibilities that he had that you’ve got to make sure are taken care of on and off the ice. We’ve got good leadership all through the room and everybody has tried to take a piece of that.”
As he has become more comfortable with the group, St. Louis has been more vocal and stepped into the leadership core as well.
“They’ve achieved a lot in their careers. They take charge,” said Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello. “If we want to be successful, you need 20 guys riding the bus and they’re good at being leaders and getting everyone on the bus.”
After a disappointing playoff last spring (one goal in 10 games) that ended with him in the press box as a healthy scratch, Richards was third in scoring during the regular season with 20 goals and 51 points and he has increased his production as the games have become more important.
“He’s picked it up a notch here in the playoffs,” said Rangers winger Carl Hagelin. “He’s skating well, he’s making plays and you can see that he’s got a lot of confidence and he’s really feeling it.”
Richards is an alternate captain, but likely would have been the leading candidate to wear the ‘C’ had Vigneault made the decision to name a new captain.
“He’s always been vocal in the room. He’s been a leader in this league for a long time and he understands how to be a pro,” said Rangers centre Derek Stepan. “First of all, the hockey sense of Brad is very high. The highest IQ I’ve played with. Knowing the game the way that he does, it’s good to be able to listen to him and soak up what he says.
“The other thing is that he has experienced a lot in his career. Guys who have gone through it know what it takes to be successful in this league. Those are the guys that you look to and those are the guys that you lean on.”
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