Brandon had a good idea here to break things up by focusing on some Ranger players before heading into playoffs. He gave me Brad Richards (and one more to come further down the road), and it includes good things too (not just the usual fancystat numbers).
While I still think the Rangers signed Richards for too long and too much, he's paying dividends this year almost as advertised. We knew he wouldn't score as much as he did in Dallas given his new role as #1 center and his age, but overall he's gotten the job done. Let's zoom in on the man who gave life to the Broadway Hat.
Richards was brought in to feed Gaborik so that Gaborik can score 10,000 goals per season. This one is for all you non-goalies out there, because clean deflections are filth.
Marian Gaborik deflection goal @ PHI - Feb 11th, 2012 (via alvesNYR)
When at his best, Richards is known for his puck control, passing ability, and the vision involved in threading the needle with his linemates. Despite this, he also loves to shoot, and at even strength this season he is shooting more often over 60 minutes than he has in the past five seasons. Throw this all together with is two-way ability and Richards is doing a decent job of earing his (jeeeeesh) $12 Million dollar paycheck this season.
On the contrary, Richards also isn't the perfect player. You notice him when he's skating, and not because he's fast but rather sluggish and awkward (in my mind at least). He's already 31, so he'll be starting down the hill rather quickly here. Finally, he's seeing a bit of luck this season, shooting a current (as of 4/3 pre-Flyers) 11.4% compared to a career 9.0%. This would be the highest percentage since his rookie season, and would be the difference of 5 goals (he has 25 now) over an 80 game pace. And because we're all logical and realistic Ranger fans, we all know the 3-1-1 rule of hockey, RIGHT?
I expect Richards to be a calming presence for those new to the Playoffs in the Rangers locker room. I expect him to continue shooting and hopefully he can lead the Power Play into a hot streak that can win a few series. Richie, Richie Rich, BR19, or whatever other nicknames you guys have for him has surprisingly NOT (half joking) been a typical Sather free-agent signing. He will truly earn his paycheck starting next week.