Flyers Backcheck: Never Happier After Loss to Carolina

With everything considered, Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes isn’t so bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an embarrassing defeat. But we’re becoming use to that sort of thing. What isn’t domestic to us, however, is a Flyers team without Claude Giroux. The captain’s third period injury put the impending loss to Carolina in perspective. That’s a good thing too, since the Canes are dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Skate Gate

If 2015 was supposed to bring optimism and hope, the Flyers didn’t get the memo. Goals from Brad Malone and Eric Staal were enough to hand the orange and black regulation loss number 17 on the season, and the first of the new year. Philly’s lack of “jump,” however, wasn’t the focus of Friday’s tilt in Raleigh – or at least after Claude Giroux had to be carried off the ice in the third period.

After sweeping the puck out of the corner of the Flyers’ offensive zone, 2014’s top point scorer took an inadvertent skate to the ankle from Canes defenseman Justin Faulk. The incident was difficult to see in real time, but the severity of it was quickly realized after the eight-year veteran fell back to the ice after attempting to climb to his feet.

Giroux attempted to get up right after the blade made contact, but he fell back down on the ice. The referee whistled the play dead as soon as he realized what happened.

As the training staff made it out to the ice, Giroux laid on his belly. He was helped to all fours and his leg was held in a sideways L-shape as they pushed him off the ice. The trainer recognized that the injury was serious enough it required the full medical facilities of the home team’s locker room. — Jen Neale, Puck Daddy

Chris VandeVelde would cut the Hurricanes’ lead to one shortly after Giroux’s exit. But as the Flyers pushed to tie the game, Giroux’s status, along with comparisons to Erik Karlsson’s achilles injury from 2013 overtook the interest in Philadelphia’s seventh game of a season-long eight-game road trip. The panic that gripped social media knew exactly what it would mean to lose Giroux for a significant amount of time. After all, what would the Flyers’ 14-17-7 record look like without their star captain?

The night, and potentially Giroux’s career, was saved by a pair of Kevlar socks.

Thanks to the Kevlar-reinforced, cut-resistant socks he was wearing underneath his equipment – made popular after Karlsson’s cautionary tale – Giroux was spared from a significant, career-threatening injury. Faulk’s skate broke the skin, for sure, but didn’t cut much deeper in Giroux’s left ankle area.

Giroux needed to be stitched closed by Hurricanes doctors, but said he expects to play against the Devils Saturday night when the Flyers wrap up their season-long road trip in New Jersey. — Frank Seravalli,

Throughout a career that’s logged 453 games, Giroux has been incredibly durable. Since the 2009-10 season, the captain has missed only five games – a feat even more impressive with injuries suffered before the last two seasons. Giroux’s gritty reputation will further grow, going from enduring a potential season-ending injury, to likely playing in Saturday night’s meeting with the New Jersey Devils.

Seriously, though. What is it with these freak occurrences with skates and the Flyers? Giroux’s latest bout with Justin Faulk’s skate marked the second straight game that a skate blade inflicted a wicked battle mark on a Flyers skater. And make no mistake about it, both “skate scares” could’ve been severely damaging.

In Wednesday’s loss to Colorado, Michael Del Zotto took a blade to the neck that required 50 stitches. Del Zotto’s stroke of bad luck glanced across the left side of his neck in his first shift since returning from a nine-game benching. And while Giroux and Del Zotto are lucky to have their achilles heel and carotid artery in tact, it’s a trend that no one wants to see emulate the mumps outbreak throughout the league.

Line Shuffling

After being promoted to the team’s top line on Wednesday, Matt Read’s tenure with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek came to an abrupt end in Raleigh. With only three goals and 11 assists, the 28-year-old winger is unquestionably in the midst of the worst season of his four-year career. Through 38 games, Read has collected points in consecutive outings only three times, last doing so against New Jersey and Carolina back in December.

Read’s time at the “top,” however, would last only five periods. The 5-10, 185-pounder mustered up only three shots in 24 shifts against Colorado, just two days before looking sluggish and out-of-sync in the first two periods in Raleigh.

Friday night, (Craig) Berube needed just 40 minutes to see it wasn’t working.

Read managed one lone shot and looked a couple seconds behind everyone else before Berube put him back on the third line and replaced Michael Raffl back on the top trio. — Dave Isaac, The News Journal

With Read’s third period demotion back to the third line, Berube reinserted Michael Raffl alongside Giroux and Voracek. And while the Flyers’ coach has taken his lumps over personnel decisions throughout the season, it was a move that needed to made.

At 6-0, 195-pounds, Raffl’s size and speed make him better suited to receive top line minutes- not to mention the two-goal deficit against the league’s 29th best scoring team. Read, on the other hand, is best utilized on Philly’s shutdown line with Sean Couturier.

“Nothing was happening,” added Berube. “It’s not all on Read. I just made a switch because Read-Couturier and (R.J.) Umberger have been a good line and trying to mix it up, add something, see if it would work.”

Tidbits from the Tar Heel State

Another First

What does Brad Malone now have in common with Aaron Ekblad, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Borna Rendulic? They all got on the board for their first goals of the season this year against the Flyers. Yes, every team has given up “first goals” of the season, but this list wasn’t initially penned in the month of October.

Jake Voracek Watch

After stampeding the scoresheet with eight points in the first three games of the road trip, Jake Voracek finds himself in a bit of a slump. Although we can still call Voracek the NHL’s leading scorer, with 47 points, the left-handed forward has just one point in his last four games. And despite Voracek’s plus-13 rating on the season, the 25-year-old Czech is a combined minus-four throughout that same span.

Who knows, though? Maybe he’s playing hurt.

Not so Sweet ‘Carolina’

While it’s widely known that Carolina’s 26 points in 38 is less than impressive, there’s something about playing the Flyers that brings them back to their old winning ways. Yes, the Flyers destroyed them on Dec. 14th. But even with that 5-1 wax job included, the Canes have beaten Philly in five of their last six meetings.

If Raleigh continues to treat the Flyers as it has in the Flyers’ last three visits, perhaps we should sign a petition to move the team back to Hartford.

That Fourth Line, Though

While the rest of the team looked lethargic and disinterested in the first period, the fourth line combo of Vinny Lecavalier, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde pestered the Canes with pressure for the majority of their shifts throughout the night. The energized fourth line combined for a goal and an assist on four shots. Perhaps these gluttons for attention were withholding the secret ingredient to circumventing Carolina’s effective trap defense.

One More to Go

The grueling eight-game road trip that started last year (it’s fun to still say that) will finally come to an end after a pit stop in Newark on Saturday. The pair of Metropolitan Division basement dwellers combined for 15 goals in their previous two meetings this season, with each team trading victories. Philly will try to stay ahead of the Devils in the standings, with just a regulation win separating them.

The Flyers have won two straight at Prudential Center, last losing there on Mar. 13th, 2013 – 3/3/13, how cute. New Jersey has lost two straight, and are 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. Add that to Claude Giroux’s status, and I’d say Saturday’s already looking up.