by Patrick Hoffman on 04/19/13 at 10:00 PM ET
For most of this shortened season, things have not been easy for New York Rangers' forward Brad Richards.
For much of this year, Richards struggled in all areas of game whether it was on offense, on the power play, handling the puck, etc. A few times this season, Rangers' head coach John Tortorella even went as far to bench the Rangers' nine-year man.
With that said, it really is amazing how fast things can change. After picking up a goal and an assist last night in his team's 6-1 win over the Florida Panthers, Richards went out and scored his first career hat trick in helping the Blueshirts crush the Sabres by a score of 8-4.
If you are counting at home, that is four goals and an assist in the last two games. With his three goals tonight, not only is he in double digits, but he is starting to show that he is not afraid to put the puck on net.
In many games prior to these last two, Richards seemed afraid to put the puck on goal. He was clearly snake bitten and looked like he had lost confidence in his ability to put the puck in the net.
In these last two games, however, Richards has seemed like a different player. He has four goals on six shots, is getting some lucky bounces and more importantly, is starting to show a killer instinct when it comes to getting the puck to the net.
Obviously, Richards's great performance tonight does not wipe away all his terrible games this season. Rangers' fans are always quick to point out the negative in a player and when it comes to Richards this season, there has been a lot more negatives than positives.
However, this should now be about what have you done for me lately. Lately, Richards has been a goal scorer and what's more is that he is doing it at the most important part of the season.
With four games left to play this season, Richards has a good chance to keep up his strong offensive play against the likes of the New Jersey Devils (twice), Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. These teams have struggled on the defensive side of the puck this season and if the last two games show anything, Richards can take advantage of struggling hockey clubs.
Right now, that is exactly what Richards and the Rangers need to do.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.