As the holiday season nears, the bitter cold throughout North America (with complete disregard for Florida and California) makes hockey a naturally more common part of our lives.
In Philadelphia, fans have been treated to the dazzling and sometimes miraculous skills of one Claude Giroux. Since his entrance into the NHL in 2008, the Ontario native and Flyers’ captain has pulled tricks out of his sack of skills for all to see and let out a gasp.
Thursday night, he provided a holiday miracle of sorts for the fans of Philadelphia. In what has been a trying season for the orange and black, the Flyers entered the third period down 3-0 at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It appeared that the team’s seven-game home winning streak would be coming to a close, and for the fifth time (including opening night), the Flyers would once again fail to eclipse the .500 winning percentage mark.
Then something funny happened. A pair of goals separated by 1:02 gave Philadelphia some hope. In turn, a Blake Comeau goal following what appeared to be a puck hitting the safety netting seemed to let the wind out of the sails.
This is where the fearless captain enters the scene. Down 4-2, and with a delayed penalty, Giroux rushed the puck into the Jackets’ zone, dropped it to Wayne Simmonds, who turned a shot off of Curtis McElhinney’s pads, and Erik Gustafsson pounced on the rebound to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Less than a minute later, Giroux capitalized on a pinball shot off traffic and the post to slide the tying marker past McElhinney with less than four minutes to play.
With just over 90 seconds to play, the captain turned to some holiday magic (and admittedly, some luck) to bring the Wells Fargo Center to a euphoric state.
Having given his team’s fans an early gift, what better way to take in the holiday weekend than with a metaphorical stocking stuffed with some of G’s greatest hits. There are dozens of varieties or fantastic moments to choose from; I have decided to go with five unique Claude Giroux goals.
1. Claude Giroux Fences Through Sabres
After being shut out in Game 1 of their quarterfinal series with Buffalo in 2011, the Flyers desperately looked for any way to force a puck past Ryan Miller. Then seen as a second option behind the likes of Jeff Carter, Danny Briere and Mike Richards, Giroux (who did lead the Flyers in scoring that season) took it upon himself to use the Sabre defense as his own slalom course.
2. Giroux Baits Bruins
Giroux opened the 2011-2012 season in sparkling fashion. In the final minute of the first period of the season, he reverted to soccer-like abilities to kick the puck past monstrous Zdeno Chara, and then provide a not-so-graceful swan dive to complete a sensational charge to the net.
3. Giroux Hands Gustavsson His Pants
Pardon the somewhat suggestive caption there. In no uncertain terms, Giroux undressed Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson in Toronto in March of 2012, in a game that went 65 minutes with zero goals. The Flyer star’s tally proved to be the lone goal of the night, in regular play or the shootout, and it left even the Maple Leaf fans at a loss for words and awestruck.
To add insult to the already baffled goaltender, he knocked the Swedish netminder’s water bottle off the shelf. Now that earns a spot on the naughty list.
4. Giroux Morphs Into Alpha-Male
The first 32 seconds of the Flyers’ deciding Game 6 against Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs may go down as the best of Giroux’s entire career when his days on the ice run out. After leveling Sidney Crosby and endearing himself to an entire city in the process, Giroux was not satisfied with just one body check.
After Jaromir Jagr poked the puck toward the slot, Giroux snagged the puck, stopped on a dime and placed it into the top shelf where practically nobody could ever reach the cookie jar.
5. Giroux Turns Doc Emrick Inarticulate
Giroux picked up right where he left off from the Pittsburgh series in Game 1 of the Flyers’ second round match with the New Jersey Devils in the spring of 2012. While Game 1 would prove to be the Flyers’ lone victory of the round, what Giroux did just moments into the Philadelphia power play in the third period of a 2-2 game is one of hockey’s great rarities. If you listen closely, as Giroux’s shot is released, all that legendary commentator Mike “Doc” Emrick can say is “Ohhhhh! Score!” Also worth noting, it hits almost the exact same spot as the Game 6 goal against the Penguins.
For those who think that shot is routine, join me on the pond trying to duplicate it. We will succumb to the cold before anyone can complete the task.
Regardless of your hockey allegiances and what holiday you celebrate as the New Year approaches, the gift of hockey and dazzling displays of skill from one of the game’s most creative playmakers is sure to liven up your already set-in-stone traditions. Happy Holidays and Happy hockey!