Mike Ribeiro’s last playoff game was May 19, 2008. So, it’s fair to say it has been a while.
The Dallas Stars missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past four seasons, and now the playmaking center finally gets a chance to be back with the Washington Capitals beginning with Game 1 Thursday.
“It’s fun. That’s why you play for,” Ribeiro said. “The last two years we got eliminated by like two points or the last game of the season. You don’t get in and it’s really crushing. … It’s just going to be exciting. It’s been a few years.”
The pending unrestricted free agent was impressive during the regular season for the Caps, but this is the time he could earn his next contract, whether it comes from Washington or another NHL team. Ribeiro said he’s not worried about that, but coach Adam Oates knows from his playing days that guys can create a reputation for themselves in the playoffs.
“It’s very important and a player should want to be here,” Oates said. “If you don’t want to be in that environment, then shame on you, because playoffs is a fantastic environment.”
Ribeiro didn’t mind it when the Stars missed the 2009 playoffs; he had been in them the three previous seasons.
“The first time you don’t make the playoffs, you’re kind of happy. You have a longer summer,” the 33-year-old said. “But like four times in a row now, four times, four summers, it’s long. You’re out for like seven months; it’s pretty long. And obviously this year was even longer for me from April to all the way now. I’m just anxious to go and play and bring some emotions up.”
Ribeiro is one of those players who runs on emotion, but it can also be detrimental if they get out of control. He was called for a few unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during the regular season, and the Caps are well-aware that everyone has to maintain composure in talking to officials.
But Ribeiro can make up for a penalty here or there by producing. With 13 goals and 36 assists, he was second on the Caps in points.
“I’m pretty comfortable,” Ribeiro said of his game. “I don’t really focus on that as much as the team and how we’re doing as a team. Yeah we’re doing good.”
In 42 career playoff games with the Montreal Canadiens and Stars, Ribeiro has five goals and 20 assists. Seeking a long-term deal in the offseason after rejecting a three-year, $14 million offer from the Caps in March, Ribeiro could show his value with a strong postseason performance.
“I think playoff or not playoff, I’m probably going to have a good deal so I’m really worried about my deal right now,” Ribeiro said. “It’s going to signed at some point. So the focus since the beginning was to get to the playoffs and now that we’re here it’s about how far can we go as a team. But I’m not worried; I’m going to sign and it’s just going to happen when the time is right.”