Most Flyers fans are asking what happened to Claude Giroux? After 14 games, Giroux only has 3 goals and 8 points. So where did his point production go?
Claude Giroux emerged last year as one of the NHL's premiere players. In fact his 93-point season was only bested by 2 players in the entire league: Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos.
After Claude's amazing regular season, he followed it up by posting an incredible 14 points in 6 games in the first round of the playoffs, ousting Sidney Crosby and his mighty Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite Philadelphia's 2nd round loss, Giroux's 8 goals led the entire playoffs at its end. His head coach Peter Laviolette even went as far as to calling him the 'best player in the world' after Game 6's win over the Penguins.
So what happened?
After the lockout shut down the first half of the NHL season, Claude Giroux decided to play overseas in Germany with the Berlin Eisbären (Polar Bears). Giroux was quick to tear that league up as well; he registered 19 points in 9 games before he was forced to leave with an injury. So his confidence was still high.
Mid-January rolls around and the lockout is officially over. The Flyers are looking at a brand new season; however, they did not have a captain, due to Chris Pronger's prolonged concussion injury. So Philadelphia looked to their best player and young leader, Claude Giroux.
Only 3 days past his 25th birthday, the team was now officially his. And he deserved it. Despite the fact that both Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere both had more leadership experience, the Flyers wanted someone not just for now, but for their future.
And Claude Giroux is the future of the Flyers. Giroux's point production has increased every season since his first. From 2008 to 2012 Giroux's points total went from 27 to 47 to 76 to 93.
Fast-forward to the start of the season. The Flyers struggled right out of the gates, losing 3 straight games. Only one player really emerged, and it was Giroux. Claude scored goals in both of the first 2 games, giving everything he had, but the rest of the team wasn't on the same page. In the first 3 games, Giroux had 2 goals while the rest of the team had just 1.
After falling down 0-3, it's the captain's responsibility to get his team on the same page. Being down 0-3 to start a shortened 48-game season puts wear on any captain's confidence, let alone a 25-year-old new captain.
So is the pressure on Claude for being named the 5th-youngest Flyers captain only 4 days before the start of the season? Because his coach called him the best player in the world, or that he won the NHL13 (video game) cover photo? Maybe because he lost his hall-of-fame linemate, Jaromir Jagr, to free agency? Or is it that he also lost his other linemate—and Flyers leading goal scorer-Scott Hartnell to a broken foot?
Or maybe it's just that his team lost their first 3 games.
There is no question that Giroux is under a lot of pressure coming from all over. Since the Flyers' 0-3 start, Giroux has struggled mightily on the ice, scoring only 1 goal and 6 points in 11 games.
However, Giroux is helping the team in other ways. Claude has been very solid in his own end, helped the penalty kill improve and is winning a ton of faceoffs, which has led to the team's turnaround.
Since their 0-3 start, the Flyers are 6-4-1, their penalty kill is 39 for 45, 87% (which would be 5th in the NHL), while their Power Play is 9 for 44, 21%, which could be better, but would still be 11th in the NHL, and Giroux has won the most faceoffs in the league, winning over 57% of his draws.
As a good leader, Claude talks about how the team's success is the only thing that matters, putting his struggles on the back burner, "It’s my last worry right now because I feel the team is playing well."
Teammate Jake Voracek acknowledges his struggles but preferred to point out the things he has done well, "He’s working much harder defensively. I think he’s playing way better defensively," Voracek said. "People are expecting points from him, but his presence is somewhere else as well."
Pressure comes with the game. All the best players go through it. Giroux has already proved to be solid under pressure and will rise again like he has risen in the past. Nothing puts more pressure on a player than the Stanley Cup playoffs. And Giroux has played in 50 career playoff games, scoring 21 goals and 55 points, averaging over a point per game on the world's toughest stage.
The Flyers have slowly started to win some games. And as they are in the midst of a huge road trip that could make or break this team, Claude needs to be the one to step up, and he knows it.
"It’s got to go in at some point," Giroux said. "The chances are there, they’re just not going in right now. It’s just a matter of time before they go in." Claude continued, "I know if I score points, it’s going to help the team. I’m trying to help the team."
The Flyers have 4 more games on this challenging 6-game road trip that includes the 1st place New Jersey Devils, 4th place Pittsburgh Penguins and the 7th place Montreal Canadiens.
Claude Giroux is so important to this team's turnaround, because he is used in every situation for Philadelphia. If the Flyers need a big penalty kill, or a PowerPlay goal, or a big faceoff win or in the last minute of a 1 goal game, whether they're in the lead or behind, Claude Giroux is out on the ice. So if the Flyers are going to be successful this season, then Giroux needs to pick up his offensive game quickly, and knowing his passion and drive to win, he will turn it around very soon.
The Flyers are currently 6-7-1, 13 points, tied for 9th place. Philadelphia will faceoff against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and then the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, both on the road.
To read more about how Claude Giroux rose to fame: CLICK HERE