Blackhawks’ Brad Richards will be on familiar ice in Stanley Cup Final
Either way, it would have been a curious set of circumstances for Chicago center Brad Richards.
Behind Door No. 1: His first NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Behind Door No. 2: His most recent NHL organization, the New York Rangers. The Rangers were his teammates along the long road to the Stanley Cup Final last year, in which they lost to the Kings.
Tampa Bay came through Door No. 1 on Friday night after defeating the Rangers for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. Richards and his Blackhawks teammates pretty much busted down the door in Game 7, soundly beating the Ducks, 5-3, on Saturday in the Western Conference finals at Honda Center.
So Richards, who had two assists in Game 7, will be going back to where it all started. Game 1 is in Tampa on Wednesday.
“Either way, I think it was going to be a little strange going into the final against a lot of people I know, probably more in New York,” Richards said. “In Tampa, the players I don’t really know that well. But the staff I grew up there and won a Cup there.
“I spent eight years of my career there. It’s going to be a pretty special moment.”
Richards was speaking about the one and only Stanley Cup for the Lightning, when Tampa Bay beat Calgary in 2004. He was moved to Dallas in 2008 at the trade deadline and would later sign with the Rangers as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011.
Now, Richards is 8-0 in Game 7s, tying the NHL record for most career Game 7 wins. The other two players to have done so happen to be Hall of Famers, Glenn Anderson and Ray Bourque.
Five of those victories came with the Rangers.
Not long after the Rangers lost to the Kings in the final, the Rangers bought out his contract. Less than two weeks later, Richards signed a one-year, $2-million contract with the Blackhawks.
“To be honest, the goal was one more step,” he said. “Obviously that’s always the goal. This [Saturday] was never the goal. But it’s a great position to be in. It was so fresh in my mind, losing. When I signed [with Chicago], it was totally to try to get right back there.
“I hadn’t been in the final in 10 years. It was such a great feeling to have a chance again. So to do it two years in a row is pretty amazing.”
Well, they haven’t started construction on a Jonathan Toews statue outside of United Center. Not yet.
Of course, Toews, who is fondly called Captain Serious, has a long career ahead of him before he hits that stage. The Blackhawks captain will be playing for his third Stanley Cup in six seasons.
His leadership skills were on full display as he scored the first two goals in Game 7.
“It was huge,” said his linemate, left wing Brandon Saad, who scored the game’s third goal. “He’s our leader on and off the ice. For him to score those big goals early for us, it gives the whole team confidence.”
Did Toews have any message for his teammates beforehand?
“It was just business as usual, having fun,” Saad said.
Some thought the longer series could favor the Ducks.
“It’s a long series. We know that right from the get-go,” Saad said. “We try to play our best team hockey for as long as possible and try to wear them down.”
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