Following #28’s Lead.
It’s a trait that Claude Giroux has seemed to have for awhile now. It’s hard for any Flyers fan to forget the 2011-2012 Philadelphia Flyers season. Just one summer after
making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers made the gutsy decision to ship away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter for a myriad of younger talent. That trade also cleared up room for the highly controversial signing of Ilya Bryzgalov in the offseason. The Flyers had a new identity, and Chris Pronger was named captain going in to the 2011-2012 campaign.
Pronger’s presence in the locker room would be short-lived. He was hit in the right eye by a stick, and that coupled with multiple other blows to the head, left Chirs
Pronger’s season and career in serious doubt. The Flyers were now left with an absence in the leadership department, and that wasn’t something that a new group of players could afford not to have. That’s where Giroux led by example.
Giroux, coming off a 76 point season in 2010-2011, put up 45 points in just the first 32 games and led the Flyers to 103 points that season, and a first round date with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Giroux notched a hattrick in game 2 of the series, and went on an absolute tear against the Penguins. Aside from the on-ice antics of the Penguins, Sidney Crosby started a war of words after the Flyers buried the Penguins in game 3. Giroux steered clear of any of this and his team followed suit, just concentrating on the task at hand.
When the Flyers lost 2 straight games and came home with the opportunity to clinch the series, Giroux didn’t hesitate one bit to establish his presence and lead the team to victory
In just the first 32 seconds of the game, Giroux delivered a huge hit on Sidney Crosby then on the ensuing faceoff, sniped Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead early on. The Flyers went on to win the game 5-1, and take the series.
Giroux wasn’t officially named captain until the start of the 2013 lockout shortened season, but it’s hard not to say that the Flyers build on the way Claude Giroux plays his game.
A Man of His Word.
Claude Giroux’s first season as captain did not go as planned for the Flyers. In the 48 game season, the Flyers missed the playoffs, Giroux still had 48 points, but the team just seemed flat.
2013-2014 came around, and things were starting to really take a turn for the worse. Through the first eight games of the season, the Flyers were 1-7-0. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read, Sean Couturier, and Scott Hartnell had zero goals to their name. People were starting to question whether Claude Giroux had a hold of the team, or if he was losing them game by game. That’s when the captain made a bold statement.
“We’re not far at all. How many points are we off, six? To think that with the start we had, we’re that close. We’ve never thought that we’re not going to make the playoffs.“We’ll take it here game-by-game and we will make the playoffs.”
When Giroux made his bold prediction, I think the reaction from fans was more angry than anything. The last thing the captain of this team should have been talking about was playoffs, right? Well Claude Giroux must have known something.
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It was no secret that it took Claude Giroux until mid-November to score a goal, but if you look at his point production from mid-November (when the Flyers started to right the ship) until the end of the season, you can see that Giroux did everything he could to back his promise of making the playoffs. As soon as Giroux started producing, the team as a whole started to come together and pick up wins. Infact, after Giroux scored his first goal against Edmonton last year on November 9th, the Flyers went on to go 38-20-9 to finish the season.
The Flyers would ultimately lose in heartbreaking fashion in the first round to the Rangers, but nevertheless, Giroux kept his promise, and from what I saw, did all he could to get the Flyers into the playoffs.
Still Proving His Worth
Claude Giroux is now in the midst of his 3rd season as Flyers captain, and he hasn’t taken his foot off the gas pedal. Giroux has been largely overshadowed by the season
Jakub Voracek is having, but he is a crucial piece to the league’s top scoring tandem, and sits alone at 3rd in points in the NHL.
It’s important to realize this, because sometimes, Giroux does things that are such a huge piece to winning games, but go so unnoticed. Giroux is 9th in the league in faceoff percentage at 56.5%, and leads the league in faceoffs taken by over 50. That’s huge, and it’s another thing that goes unnoticed in a lot of people’s minds.
Aside from his play in the faceoff circle, it’s very easy to overlook the fact that Giroux is on pace for a career season this year. If Giroux continues at his current pace, he is on pace to finish with 24 goals, 74 assists, and 98 points (Of course, that could be overshadowed by Voracek who is on pace for 108 points). Regardless of the point total, Giroux is helping the Flyers win games without even putting anything in the stat column.
In last night’s game against the Winnpeg Jets, Dustin Byfuglien was all over Giroux with physical play. There was a few high hits, and Giroux was also clipped up high by a Jet player leaving his bench. Instead of going out and taking a retaliation penalty, Giroux made it his goal to win the game for the Flyers.
On the very first shift of overtime, Giroux pursued Byfuglien being the Winnipeg net as he had the puck. The 5’11”, 172 pound Giroux checked the 6’5″, 260 pound Byfuglien off the puck. Voracek swooped in, came out infront of the net and scored the overtime winner, just 10 seconds in. Giroux didn’t recieve an assist on the play since he didn’t actually come in contact with the puck, but the play was all a result of the hustle and grit of the captain.
I don't care if @28CGiroux didn't touch the puck, give the man an assist
— Alexander Peterman (@SnugglesPetey13) December 22, 2014
His effort last night did not go unnoticed by Flyers fans, and it no doubt was one of the most important reasons why the Flyers got the extra point.
The Flyers as a whole have had some ups and downs with Claude Giroux as captain. But if there is one thing that I’ve seen over the 3 years that he has been captain, it’s that this team follows in his footsteps. More importantly, if Claude Giroux makes a promise, he’s going to keep it.
Last night was just another prime example of why the Flyers have the perfect guy leading this team. Giroux may not be a flashy goal scorer, but he sets up plays, and steps up when the team needs him to most, and that is the mark of a very good captain.
Matt is a contributor for the Philadelphia Flyers at The Hockey Writers. He has previously covered the Flyers for GrandstandU. He enjoys playing hockey and making music in his spare time.