The 2011-2012 season has seen Claude Giroux transform from an underrated dazzler into one of the NHL’s premier players. For Philadelphia’s most valuable player, the road to NHL stardom has been paved by the same uncoachable ability that has defined legends like Bobby Orr and Mark Messier: performance in the clutch. With the 2012 playoffs just over two weeks away, let’s take a look at the remarkable postseason performances that have defined Claude Giroux’s career thus far.
2008 QMJHL President’s Cup Playoffs
After finishing the regular season with 106 points, second only to now-Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault, Claude Giroux and the Gatineau Olympiques embarked on a quest for the team’s seventh President’s Cup. Fueled by Giroux’s 37 points, the Olympiques lost only twice in the first three (best-of-7) rounds of the tournament. In the finals, Gatineau faced the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies who had swept the first three series of the playoffs. It took only five games for the Olympiques to defeat the red-hot Huskies and become the 2008 President’s Cup champions. Giroux potted 14 points over that five-game span for a total of 51 points in the 19 game playoff run. Number 28′s sensational showing earned him the Guy Lafleur Trophy for QMJHL playoff MVP.
2009 NHL Playoffs
When Claude Giroux lifted the QMJHL President’s Cup above his head at Robert Guertin Arena in Gatineau, Québec at the Olympiques home opener in September 2008, few would have predicted he would finish the 08-09 season atop the list of playoff scorers for the Philadelphia Flyers. But, after the Flyers’ defeat in six games to the Penguins, Claude Giroux was tied with then-Flyers Captain Mike Richards with five points. Sure, five points in six games pales in comparison to the pace Giroux set for Gatineau. But, at 21, and in his first NHL playoff series, Giroux showed promising poise. In game three especially, Giroux was the best Flyer recording a Gordie Howe hat trick, with a goal, an assist, and a fight. “G” soon became a Philadelphia fan favorite, whose potential seemed infinite.
For Flyers fans, the 2009-2010 season was the most memorable in recent history. After making the playoffs on the last day of the season, and making history in seven games against the Bruins, the Broad Street Bullies were in their first Stanley Cup final since 1997. In the end, they fell short to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. In the Flyers’ 23 postseason contests, Claude Giroux was once again a staple of the team’s well rounded offense, tallying 21 points.
Just over five minutes into overtime of game three against the Blackhawks, the Flyers were in desperate need of a goal. Having dropped the first two games of the series in Chicago, the outcome of game three was pivotal.
Enter Claude Giroux.
Tipping a Matt Carle slap-pass through goaltender Anti Niemi for the biggest goal in his career, Claude Giroux and his heavily bearded visage instantly became an icon in Philadelphia.
2011 NHL Playoffs
In a 2011 playoff run riddled with disappointment, the Flyers did have one bright spot: the play of their up and coming star Claude Giroux. When the Buffalo Sabres rolled around last spring, 23 year-old Claude Giroux was on a mission to prove himself as the Flyers’ biggest offensive threat. G did just that. In 11 playoff games, he lead all Flyers scorers with 12 points (1 G, 11 A). While Giroux only scored once, it was a dazzling goal in which he knifed through several Buffalo defensemen before firing it into the net over Ryan Miller’s shoulder. Moreover, Giroux’s uneven assist-to-goal ratio was a minor preview of what would be in store for his next season.
The 86 points that Claude Giroux has amassed to this point in the 2011-2012 campaign is the product of several years of poised postseason play. Giroux’s experience in clutch situations has propelled him to new heights this season, and surely for seasons to come. As the Flyers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in their 77th game of the season, the short time remaining in the season should come as a stark reminder that the 2012 playoffs loom just two weeks away. The Flyers and their fans know they are going to need Giroux now more than ever. For 24 year-old Claude Giroux, there is just one monumental milestone that he cannot yet put on his resumé: The Stanley Cup. And, you better bet he’s gunning for it.