Mike Richards annoys Sidney Crosby to the point of violence

"Mike Richards slashed Sidney Crosby three or four times, provoking the star center into a fight. Crosby made a feeble attempt to act tough, throwing a shot at Richards after the refs had bottled him up. And that's a lucky thing for Crosby, because there is absolutely no question he wanted no part of the Flyers captain-in-waiting. We've seen Richards fight, and he's pretty damn good at it. He pummeled Alexander Ovechkin during the duo's rookie campaign, and if not for the referees protecting Gary Bettman's Golden Boy, there's a more-than-great chance Richards would have beaten Crosby to a pulp." - Joe Boland, Philly Sportsline

So Crosby comes off as a puss, but what about Richards? I received an e-mail from a colleague this morning with the subject header "Is Mike Richards a bitch?" that urged me to check out his dance card from HockeyFights.com. The Philadelphia Flyers center has brawled with the likes of Sean Avery a few times, but he's also gotten into scraps with guys like Garnet Exelby and Brandon Dubinsky. He likes to get feisty, but he's not fighting out of his weight class. Then again, the Flyers aren't paying him for the next dozen years to be Bob Probert, so his career as a pugilist may be a bit immaterial.

The more specific question is whether his actions at the end of Game 4, with the Flyers clearly headed to victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, could be considered "bitchly." In the slash-fest that followed their face-off, Richards was merely capping a night in which he frustrated Crosby. Tyler at NHL Digest thought that Richards forced Sid to lose focus throughout the game, which unfortunately triggered his whining reflex. The 4th Star thinks that Sid's complaining, and those ever-present accusations of chronic diving, all but justify Richards taking his shot at him.

I'm not sure Richards comes off all that classy by mixing it up like this after his team barely keeps its playoff heartbeat from flat-lining. But he does come off as savvy, forcing an opponent one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals to look nervous, defensive and agitated. It was a nice bit of playoff gamesmanship -- and let's all simultaneously scratch our heads as to why Coach Michel Therrien had "Crosby on the ice with 10 seconds left and 2 goals down."

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