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|Richards, Carter's bond finds success in Los Angeles|
|Written by Andrew Knoll|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 03:27|
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards have been friends since their time spent in juniors as opponents. Once teammates on the Philadelphia Flyers, the two are now finding success in Hollywood.LOS ANGELES – Following a keep-in at the blue line, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter went to work near the net, employing a bit of telepathy to hammer home a power-play goal that put a stranglehold on the Stanley Cup Final.
It was a play plucked from a dream of so many Philadelphia fans, only this time the two Flyers cornerstones were not wearing even a hint of orange.
“When you play for such a long time together, you just read off each other,” said Carter, decked out in Los Angeles Kings practice gear.
“I think the perfect example is the goal we scored on the power play. I know where to go for him. He knows where I'm going. It makes it easy for us.”
The two players first became friends while competing in the OHL, a bond that was strengthened by two trips to the World Juniors with Team Canada and being drafted in the first round together by Philly.
Although they were unable to complete a sweep in the Final on Wednesday, the duo stands on the verge of culminating a dream they have shared not only with each other but also with every NHL player to ever play.
“They’re good friends and they’ve shared a lot of experiences, I think this would be the ultimate experience for any players, let alone friends,” said Kings assistant coach John Stevens, who coached the duo in Philadelphia at both the NHL and AHL levels.
One World Junior gold medal, a Calder Cup and a couple deep Stanley Cup playoff runs later, it seemed that their careers would be completely inextricable once the Flyers locked each of them up for over a decade.
Yet a stunning offseason in Philadelphia saw more than half the Flyers’ roster turn over, sending their top two centers to different divisions, time zones, and, obviously, locker rooms.
“We were told we were going to be Flyers for life. I think that frustrated us the most, we were promised to be there forever and that’s why we signed the deals,” Richards said upon his arrival in Los Angeles.
“We expected to play our whole careers together. I’ve known him since we were 16, probably best friends since we were 18. We lived together and probably spent every day together for a couple years.”
While both men were deeply disappointed, a twist of fate reunited them in short order when Richards’ Kings dealt Jack Johnson and a first-round pick to Columbus in exchange for Carter.
This time they would not be a 1-2 punch up the middle, instead they became regular linemates for the first time in their careers.
“We knew that when we got Carter in the trade, they were going to play together and they were going to have something special together,” said winger Simon Gagne, who played with Richards and Carter as a Flyer until 2010 when he was traded to Tampa Bay. “Chemistry is always important. You could put the best two players in the world together and it might not work. Those guys have it.”
Hall of Fame center Mark Messier said he grasped the kind of chemistry such a longstanding relationship could engender. He had Glenn Anderson riding shotgun on his line for nearly every huge moment of his career, including six Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.
“I think I have an understanding of the synergy that happens when players play together for an extended period of time,” Messier said. “That’s what it takes to really play the game at that high level where you don’t have time to think, you don’t even have time to react. You have to be five steps ahead and only with that amount of time together can you choreograph that.”
Whether they were on the Jersey Shore or in Manhattan Beach, the tandem has provided the same kind of versatility and dynamism since they first arrived in professional hockey.
“They play when you’re down, they play when you’re up, they kill penalties and they play power play,” said Stevens, who coached Richards and Carter to a Calder Cup in the AHL. “If you have a winning program you need players like that and both those guys have been like that since day one.”
Photos by Getty Images