Maybe Ian Laperriere
was right. Maybe watching Philadelphia Flyers
captain Mike Richards
go to work really is motivation enough to put it all on the line every night.
Laperriere, of course, has been sidelined with a brain contusion he suffered while blocking a shot in Game 5 against the New Jersey Devils
in the opening round of the playoffs. But when he was in action, he constantly credited Richards and his insatiable appetite to succeed as a stimulus each and every shift.
Laperriere wasn't kidding, either. Sure, Richards is leading the team in scoring and has logged the most minutes and shifts of any forward on the team, but it's the things that don't show up on the scoresheet that have made a profound impact.
He's made life miserable for Boston's Marc Savard
. He took out a top-three center in David Krejci
with a thunderous body check in Game 3 and has made it a point to target Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara
at every opportunity despite the 10-inch height disparity.
"He plays with an edge," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton
said. "He plays hard. He's a pain in the (butt) to play against."
Richards was at it again on Wednesday, with his team facing elimination for the third straight game. His goal 6:58 into the first opened the scoring, and not only ignited the bench but the 19,929 in attendance on the way to a 2-1 triumph that sets the stage for a dramatic Game 7 at TD Garden on Friday.
"For us, it was all about the start and we wanted to initiate and not sit back and see what they were going to do," Richards said. "We were ready for this game. We had a sense of calmness, but I think we were a little bit nervous and prepared."
He'd log 20:52 of ice time on 27 shifts, block three shots and notch four shots on Boston goalie Tuukka Rask
"It's been a tough battle," he said. "Chara is a big man and he plays the game hard. I think for everybody it's been a tough series -- it's been physical. It's great hockey out there. It's fast and it's the type of hockey you like playing."
As he did for Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Richards is the obvious thorn in the opponent's side. Whether working the point on the power play, killing penalties or preparing to throw a big body check while five-on-five, Richards has firmly established himself as a player to be reckoned with this postseason.
If the Flyers are victorious in Friday's series finale in Beantown, the club will become only the third in League history to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series. Despite being on the verge of that remarkable feat, the Flyers captain would prefer to go back to the drawing board.
"It's nice, but we haven't done anything yet," he said. "We've fought all the way back to tie it, but we still need one more win. Obviously, it's a Game 7 and it's going to be tough. We have to be prepared for it."
Richards has liked what he's seen in his team -- the fight, the passion and the determination when the odds were against them.
"We're doing everything for each other," he admitted. "We're helping each other out, talking, and even when they had a lot of chances at our net, I thought we were defending well. When we needed the saves, (Michael) Leighton was there as well.
"Our confidence has been growing and we've built momentum. It's not an easy task and to battle back this far … we have to be prepared Friday because that's going to be the toughest."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale