Each month at Blueshirt Bulletin, we’ll pick one player from the Rangers who stood out in recent games and award him with the prestigious title of Blueshirt Bulletin’s Bull of the Month. Whether he has been the lone bright spot on the team or one of many, this player will have impressed us with his persistence, consistency, and overall superb play. In short, the Bulletin Bull is the defined difference-maker on the New York Rangers over the course of that month.
November’s Bull is: Brad Richards
Stats: 21 GP, 9 G, 10 A, +1, 3 GWG,
League Rank: 30th G, 77th A, 4th, GWG
Highlight Reel: GWG against the Islanders (11/15), GWG/PPG against the Flyers (11/26), Goal Against the Penguins (11/29)
The Case: The difference between the New York Rangers of October and the New York Rangers of November is night and day. Last month, awarding King Henrik the crown for Bull of the Month was virtually a no-brainer; his performance between the pipes was the main reason the Blueshirts started out with any wins at all. Lundqvist has continued his superb play well into November (with some much appreciated help from his reliable and equally as steady backup, Martin Biron), but several other players have stepped up their game as well, providing the Blueshirts with an eruption of offense that is quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception for this team.
Foremost among these players is one who has been buzzed about in Rangerland since well before the season began—a certain coveted centerman by the name of Brad Richards.
When Richards signed a blockbuster nine-year, $60 million contract with the Rangers on July 2nd, the inevitable comparisons to free agency gems-turned-pariahs Chris Drury and Scott Gomez began. However, far from caving under the pressure of the harsh Broadway lights, Richards has already started to flourish in his first season in New York City. His nine goals for the Rangers—second only to Marian Gaborik—puts him on pace for a career-high 35 goals. Though it was originally assumed that Richards would spend his career in New York centering the speedy Gaborik, the two were split up relatively early on, and Richards now plays on a line with former Tampa Bay Lightning linemate Ruslan Fedotenko and New York captain Ryan Callahan. The first line of Gaborik-Anisimov-Stepan has been garnering all of the attention recently, but Fedotenko-Richards-Callahan is really a “second line” only in name.
More important than his total stats, Brad Richards has been the one to step up when his team needs him most. Richards is tied with Gaborik for the team lead with three game winning goals, and tied for second-most in the NHL. In addition to netting the game-winners against Montreal, the Islanders, and most recently against Philadelphia last Saturday, Richards also earned the struggling Rangers a much-needed point with his game-tying goal (and first as a Ranger) against the Ducks in Sweden, as well as earning the primary assist on Dan Girardi’s game-winner that sparked a 5-1 rout of the Hurricanes on November 11th at the Garden. On Tuesday night, Richards assisted on Gaborik’s game-winning goal against the Penguins, while adding another assist and yet another wicked wrister. Talk about Mr. Clutch.
Coach Tortorella’s decision to make Richards and alternate captain has been validated by the creative center’s performance on and off the ice. In addition to his clutch on-ice presence, Richards immediately gelled with the rest of the Rangers’ locker room, even introducing a new tradition of awarding the “Broadway Hat” to the best player of the game. The ritual became an instant hit among players and fans alike, and has certainly helped to foster a sense of team camaraderie.
The Verdict: Throughout 21 games with the Rangers, Brad Richards is well on his way to earning both his extensive contract and the ‘A’ on his chest. His three game winning goals demonstrate that valuable ability to be the perennial difference-maker, and his 14 points in the past 13 games show that he is consistently contributing to the team’s offense. Richards is a dynamic player with the ability to kick-start the team’s offense…and he boasts a dangerously accurate wrist-shot.
"(Richards) is everything we thought we were getting. Maybe even more." – Brandon Dubinsky
"A guy like that has the tendency to step up at the right time, and it's not a coincidence. His focus, I think, is real good when it comes down to the final minutes. When you need that extra something for the big play, he is able to do it." – Henrik Lundqvist
"A player like that rises up to big occasions. He's come up with some big goals to propel us to important leads late in games." – Ryan Callahan
Runners Up: Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan are deserving of Blueshirt Bulletin’s Bull of the Month for November. Gaborik, with his team-leading 11 goals and 19 points, has been the gift that keeps on giving. He has played in all 21 games so far and has not gone more than three games without recording at least a point. Fifth in the league with 85 shots on goal, Gaborik has been an exhilarating offensive presence for the Rangers since day one of the season. Many of his recent highlight-reel goals have come off beautiful passes from sophomore Derek Stepan, who is more than earning his spot as the team’s first-line center.