PHILADELPHIA – Many people watching the Flyers get off to the worst start in franchise history see things one way.
Claude Giroux sees it another.
That’s not to say that he’s trying to sugarcoat the terrible start – and after losing a 3-2 heartbreaker to Vancouver Tuesday, that start is now 1-6-0. Instead it’s trying to find some perspective in a very difficult time for the franchise.
So when he looks into a camera, as he did Tuesday night, and tells a city that is currently disappointed with its hockey team that the team is getting better as it sinks farther in the standings, he’s not doing it to try and feed you a line.
He’s doing it because he believes it.
“We played the best game [yet],” he said of the loss to the Canucks. “It’s frustrating… We are getting better every game, that’s how we all look at it, it’s a fact. If anybody knows anything about hockey, they’ll know we played a good game tonight, we played our best game and it’s a good thing coming right now.”
That’s almost unfathomable when you play for a team that has scored just 10 goals in seven games and has watched the same power play that was tops in the NHL a season ago start the latest campaign 2-for-29.
But it’s what he believes. And he wants you to believe it right along with him.
“The frustration is there but at the same time I’m going to look at the videos tomorrow [and say] we played a good game,” Giroux said. “When it comes to the end of the game like that, you have to find a way to get the job done. We had our chances, the guys played well.
“We are going to start winning games here soon and when we [do] we will be back in the playoff race here.”
It’s a bold assertion by the captain, but one that is born from an unshaken off-ice team confidence, and that is being presented to them daily by their new coach Craig Berube.
“It’s tough [losing],” Berube said. “But you have to keep believing that we’re going in the right direction. It was a hard fought game and when you play a John Tortorella-coached team, you’re in for a dogfight the whole game.
“But I thought our guys competed really hard and did a lot of good things out there.”
And he’s not wrong – nor is Giroux. The Flyers have been exponentially better with each game since Berube took over as head coach a week ago.
Their team game is far more sound and far more consistent. Sure there are still mistakes – and they have been proving costly, as they did against Vancouver when blown coverages led to the tying and winning goals in the third period by the Canucks – but Berube, and by extension Giroux, know those are easy fixes.
The not-so-easy-fix is getting over the mental hurdles that rear their ugly heads when the team is on-ice and there’s a lack of confidence in the way the team is playing.
“Confidence is the biggest thing,” Berube said. “You have to go out and take it to the other team in the third period and win the game.
“We’re kind of sitting back a little bit and waiting for something bad to happen. We have to get over that hump.”
That appears to be the trick, because the rest of what the Flyers have been doing in the past week has bore good fruit.
Like Tye McGinn for example.
The gritty forward has taken Scott Hartnell’s spot on the roster while he is injured, and in two games, McGinn has made the most of it.
He has scored three goals – twice against Vancouver – and is playing Berube’s system to a tee.
“I am just trying to be open ears right now,” McGinn said. “I’m trying to get as much information as I can right now. Coach is telling me to drive the net and you have guys like [Giroux] and [Jakub] Voracek all saying ‘drive the net, drive the net’ and that is what I’m trying to do and right now - I’m [working for it.]”
So far so good.
But in the end, it’s all about the wins and losses, and despite the steady improvement of the way the team is playing, moral victories aren't going to be good enough for much longer.
“The last three games have been different than the first three,” said Voracek while comparing three-game losing skids. “I don’t know what you can see up in the press box, but on the bench and in the locker room we feel like we are getting better every game.
“But it’s kind of tiring to say that every game and not be winning the games… Nobody is going to help us. We just have to find a way.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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