Brad Richards Has Been Who We Thought He Was - NBC New York

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Brad Richards Has Been Who We Thought He Was

Richards has burnished his reputation for showing up in big spots



    Brad Richards Has Been Who We Thought He Was
    Getty Images
    One Conn Smythe in the bag and making a case for another.

    When Brad Richards signed with the Rangers this offseason, he came with two things that people couldn't stop talking about.

    The first was a salary that he seemed unlikely to earn in later years of his deal, causing some people to wonder if the Rangers were repeating their mistakes with Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and others.

    The second thing was his reputation for playing his best when his team needed it the most. If he lived up to that, the salary wouldn't be much of a concern because there was a pretty good chance the Rangers would have moments of celebration worth every penny.

    So far, so good. Richards' goal to send Game Five to overtime was just the latest big moment he's provided in his first season with the team.

    There was the goal to win the Winter Classic, one of nine game-winners Richards had during the regular season, and there was the role he played in scoring each of the first two goals of the critical Game Six win over the Senators. Richards also assisted on Marian Gaborik's triple overtime winner in Game Four of this series and he has consistently been a thorn in the opposition's side during the postseason.

    It's always tempting to write off things like clutchness as being an intrinsic part of a player.

    Richards' Game Five goal came in a furious scramble with everyone on both sides frantically diving and swinging sticks before the puck trickled home off a post.

    That's hardly the stuff of design, but it's hard to ignore when the same person keeps coming through in those kinds of moments.

    Whether it is skill, luck or a little of both, Richards is always where the Rangers need him to be and that's exactly what they wanted when they signed him.

    Richards isn't the biggest reason why these Rangers were so successful in the regular season.

    He's somewhere behind Henrik Lundqvist and the defensive identity provided by the likes of Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal.

    The playoffs are different, though, and Richards' importance has skyrocketed. But that's exactly who we thought he was in the first place.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.