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mb financial Features

Toews, Richards put friendship on hold during Final

Thursday, 05.27.2010 / 9:22 PM / Features
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com senior writer
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Toews, Richards put friendship on hold during Final
Olympic linemates Mike Richards of Philadelphia and Jonathan Toews of Chicago will be friends again -- after one of the two lifts the Stanley Cup.
Jonathan Toews and the Flyers' Mike Richards became fast friends at the 2010 Olympics while playing for Team Canada..

CHICAGO -- You will hear about the similarities between Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards for the entire Stanley Cup Final, and they're all spot-on. The two captains are indeed cut from the same cloth, born from the same hockey embryo -- save for the way they accept conference championship trophies.

Toews shunned the Clarence Campbell Bowl as if it was diseased, while Richards grabbed the Prince of Wales Trophy like a kid being handed a lollipop.

"I don't really look for (the similarities) when I watch him, but I'll take that as a compliment if you see them," said Richards, the captain in orange and black. "He's a great player. He's so tenacious on the puck. He works hard for it. His competitive level is what makes him a great player."

He never would, but Richards could say the same exact things about himself. If you want fierce and selfless competitors and blood and guts leaders, you've come to the right series.

When it's all done, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will hand one of the captains the Stanley Cup and this much is certain: The guy who raises it will have earned it the hard way.

Richards and Toews don't know any other way.

"They both play the game as hard as anybody," said Blackhawks center John Madden, who has played with Toews for a season after playing against Richards and the Flyers in the same division for the previous four. "They are in the trenches all the time, scoring big goals and doing everything for their teams -- just like captains should do. They're two great leaders."

Maybe that's why Team Canada coach Mike Babcock entrusted Richards and Toews with one of the more difficult tasks during the Winter Olympics in February. They formed two-thirds of what became Canada's shutdown line. Rick Nash filled it out with his blend of power, speed and grace.

By the end of the tournament, the Richards-Toews-Nash trio was Canada's best line. They stuffed Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin in Canada's 7-4 win over Russia and were a dominant line in the gold-medal game against Team USA too.

Richards finished the tournament with 2 goals, 3 assists and a plus-5 rating. Toews had a goal, 7 assists, a plus-9 rating and was voted as the best forward in the tournament. Nash also had 2 goals and 3 assists.

"He makes his linemates better and makes his teammates better," Richards said of Toews. "I learned a lot from him at the Olympics and enjoyed my time playing with him. Obviously he's having a great playoff now."

Richards and Toews, arguably the leader on their respective teams for the Conn Smythe Trophy, became fast friends at the Olympics.

"He's from Winnipeg and I'm from Kenora, which is pretty close," said Richards, whose 21 postseason points are second only to Toews' 26. "We're friends now and we talk, but on the ice it will be a little bit different. We'll play hard against each other, but that's to be expected."

Toews, who brings a club record 13-game point streak into the Final, learned to appreciate Richards' will when they were together in the Olympics.

"If you look at us, we're not the prettiest players or the most skilled players in the League, but our offense and the exciting plays that we can both make come off of hard work," Toews told NHL.com. "We try to overwhelm our opponent with that hard work. You can see it from him, whether it's even strength or on special teams, he's working his butt off in the corner and somehow he gets a break or a puck bounces on his stick and it's an ugly goal but it doesn't matter because it's a big one for his team. That's how I try to play as well."

The style will undoubtedly work better for one of them in this series. It has to. That's life.

Whoever loses will probably get a nod, a wink or a tip of the cap from the winner. The respect and admiration between these two captains is sincere because of their similarities.

"He's a good guy, a likeable guy, and he puts the team ahead of himself, which is why he's led his team to this point," Toews said. "But hopefully it's the end of the road for him."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl






Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer