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Mike Richards Ignores Possible Curse, Grasps Wales Trophy

May 24, 2010 – 11:52 PM
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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez %BloggerTitle%

PHILADELPHIA -- When you're a team that needed a shootout victory in the last game of the regular season to earn a playoff bid, dressed seven goalies and fired a coach, Mike Richards didn't think he'd screw up the Philadelphia Flyers' "team of destiny" vibe by grasping the Prince of Wales Trophy.

The silver piece of hardware is handed -- or at least is attempted to be handed -- to the captain of the team that wins the Eastern Conference. Many a player has avoided touching it over the years, thinking the hockey gods would somehow keep his team from hoisting hockey's ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup.

"It was actually a little bit of a debate on the ice," Richards said minutes after the Flyers advanced to the Finals with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the East finals on Monday. "I thought a little about it last night and my first instinct was to grab it. We haven't done anything conventional all year -- especially in these playoffs -- so might as well go against the grain one more time."

Flyers win series, 4-1
Flyers 4, Canadiens 2: Recap | Box Score | Series Page

The team has already slain many misconceived notions this postseason, like a team couldn't advance with a journeyman goalie. Then that journeyman (Brian Boucher) got hurt and was replaced by another (Michael Leighton) who went on to lead the Flyers completely out of a 3-0 hole against the Boston Bruins, becoming only the third team in NHL history to accomplish that feat.

Then there were the injuries to other cogs in the Flyers lineup lost in the first round as Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere went down. Gagne made it back by Game 4 against the Bruins, but Laperriere and Carter played in just their second playoff game in about a month on Monday.

"They told me and Carts that we were done and all of a sudden the team kept winning," said Laperriere, who was out with a brain contusion. "They gave us a chance."

And as far the Wales trophy, Laperriere looked over as it sat in Richards' locker, and he didn't want much to do with it.

"I'm proud of what we did so far," Laperriere said. "That's a nice trophy there, but it's nothing like the big one. I don't know. I've never seen it. I've never touched it."

Pregame Instructions: Laperriere said he pulled aside rookie James Van Riemsdyk before the start of Game 5.

"I told James it took me 15 years [to get to the Finals]. Fifteen years!" Laperriere exclaimed. "You never know. He's only 21 and this might be his last chance to win, especially the way things are going. We are the best example."

A Little Bit of History: The Blackhawks and Flyers have never faced each other in the Stanley Cup Finals, but some players on each team have been a party to a Chicago-Philly championship.

Richards, Carter and Riley Cote were part of a Philadelphia Phantoms team that took on Ben Eager and Patrick Sharp of Chicago's AHL affiliate, the Wolves, in the 2005 Calder Cup Championship. The Wolves, however, are not affiliated with the Blackhawks like the Phantoms are to the Flyers.
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