Brad Richards left his coach no choice.

Which, when it comes right down to it, is just as well, because any time the Rangers have gone on the power play in the playoffs, John Tortorella has chosen to use Richards, regardless of how dysfunctional the center’s game had become.

In that regard, the healthy scratch of Richards for Thursday night’s potential Round Two elimination Game 4 at the Garden against the Bruins saves the coach from himself, his instincts, and his loyalty to one of his all-time favorite players.

Understand this. Tortorella will lose no one in the room because of this decision. There was far greater risk of him losing the room, as it were, by continuing to give Richards critical ice time that he did not earn.

Fact: Before Thursday night, the coach had turned to Richards on every single full power play during the playoffs. Fact: Richards’ 37:54 of PP time, divided between the points and forward, was second on the club to Rick Nash’s 39:48. Fact: The Rangers, 0-for-10 against Boston, 0-for-their last 21, and 2-for-38 overall with the man advantage, have not scored a PPG in the tournament with Richards on the ice.

Hockey can’t be about the past. Games and playoff rounds cannot be won on credit. If it’s not quite a matter of, “What have you done for me lately?” it must be a matter of, “What can you do for me today?” and not, “I will reward you for what you did for me yesterday.”

This is not a philosophy I have just recently adopted, by the way. For reference, check out the chunks of space I devoted to this very issue during Mark Messier’s final season on Broadway in 2003-04.