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Is Mike Richards worth the gamble?


Is Mike Richards worth the gamble?

Back in early November, when Caps general manager Brian MacLellan began seriously considering signing Mike Richards as a free agent, there were several hurdles he needed to clear.

The first was gathering enough information to determine whether Richards, 30, was dealing with any kind of dependency issues after being arrested at the Canadian border last summer for possession of oxycodone.

There were also legal issues hanging over Richards. A hearing scheduled for early December was postponed until Jan. 28 and there were reports that hearing could be postponed as Richards’ attorneys gathered information to defend his not-guilty plea.  

The Caps began by talking with Justin Williams, who played parts of four seasons with Richards in Los Angeles, winning two Stanley Cups. (Like Williams, Richards is also 7-0 in Game 7s in his playoff career).

Williams told CSN Mid-Atlantic that he talked with Richards more about his life than about hockey, saying that if Richards was in a good mental state he could “definitely” help the Capitals.

MacLellan already was convinced that if Richards could play with the determination he showed in the first nine years of his career, when he played in three Stanley Cup Finals, he was worth pulling out of his personal purgatory.

RELATED: Caps All-Stars react to selections

Richards’ proficiency on faceoffs, penalty killing and hard-nosed play could be a perfect fit for a team with a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

But with the Capitals ascending to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, MacLellan had to weigh the risks of disrupting a good thing, both on the ice and in the locker room.

Would Richards become a distraction?

MacLellan and head coach Barry Trotz knew there was only way to find out and the two took the next big step, meeting with Richards to see for themselves if Richards thought he might be a good fit in Washington.

Apparently, they all agreed he could.

And when Jay Beagle suffered a hand injury that will keep him out of action six weeks, the Caps decided to roll the dice and signed Richards to a one-year, $1 million contract.

The Caps are gambling that Richards is the missing piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle. They are gambling that he will fill the void left by Beagle on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle while providing some offensive punch.

They are gambling that when Beagle returns they’ll have a lineup featuring Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Richards and Beagle down the middle, with Richards and Beagle battling for the third spot.

And they are gambling that Richards has the legs and hockey sense that made him such a valuable member of the Kings and Flyers.

But it was the fact the Capitals were able to acquire Richards without giving up a player from their roster that most attracted them. And with a prorated cap hit of just $500,000 Richards might be the perfect fit for a team that sees a championship for the taking.

The next five or six months will determine if they were right.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin may remember Richards from first NHL fight

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Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”

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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.