PHILADELPHIA - In Game One of the “game-by-game” that Claude Giroux promises will get the Flyers to the playoffs despite the worst start of their history, they finally got a third-period goal to go ahead. And what did their captain next do?
Just 19 seconds after Braydon Coburn scored, Giroux mindlessly reached out his stick on John Moore at center ice and gave one of those not-moving-your-feet-little tugs that are not enough to take a guy down, only your own team when it has zero margin for error.
“I didn’t think they would call it,” said Giroux. “But they did.
“It was a long two minutes. I was talking to My Friend Upstairs.”
He didn’t mean any fate determiners in a Toronto room filled with monitors and NHL officials. Referee Paul Devorski had to place that call after Steve Mason steered one rebound too many up the slot and J.T. Miller toe-dragged the puck across the line for an apparent tying power-play goal.
Time hangs heavy on the hands of a team’s best player whose world-class hands continue to desert him. Giroux stood in the penalty box throughout the minutes it took for Toronto to rule Miller’s “distinct kicking motion” that will cause a goal to be taken off the board.
Whew. And whew again, when the Flyers killed the final 16 seconds, which Giroux survived still standing in the box, like an uncoiled cobra ready to spring. That Ranger goal repossessed, he came out of the box like a man possessed and, during the long and nervous 14:08 remaining in the game:
-- Blocked a shot by Dominic Moore.
-- Won three of the five draws he took the rest of the way, not losing either of the other two cleanly.
-- Interrupted some anxiety-raising Ranger buzzing by crosschecking Derick Brassard into the goal with 3:32 to go, risking a penalty that, unlike the previous one, would have been much more worth taking.
-- Led a two-on-one sprung by Vinny Lecavalier in the final two minutes and dropped the puck to the similarly goalless Kimmo Timonen, who then unsuccessfully tried to give it back to Giroux, the way it goes these days.
-- Stepped into Taylor Pyatt as the big Ranger forward tried to carry the puck towards the goal in the final seconds.
The Flyers survived, 2-1, for their first win in four games and the first of the rest of their lives, as Giroux announced this week must become their mantra.
"We're not far off at all; how many points are we out, six?" he told the media. "To think of the start that we had and we're that close . . .”
“We've got to go game-by-game and we will make the playoffs."
It is easy to say that there really is nothing else for the leader of a 2-7 team to say. Much harder to acknowledge, in these tense and frustrating times, is that their best player has three points in nine games but understands it is not all about him.
Of course, ultimately it will be because the Flyers need Giroux’s production. But right now, as practically the only confidence he is showing is not in his hands, but in his tense and underachieving team, a young captain is behaving like a star should.
In the meantime, it would not be against the rules for one of Giroux’s linemates to help get him going. Since such assistance has not been forthcoming, Craig Berube has made the left-hand shooting Lecavalier the Flyers’ first line right wing, never mind he practically has never played the position in his 15 NHL seasons.
After just 13 Flyers goals in nine games, almost anything is worth a try, but this particular attempt doubles as a reflection of this roster not having a right wing who can make Giroux the player he was for 50 dynamic games in 2011-12 until age began to catch up with Jaromir Jagr.
That said, Giroux, in the longest goal drought of his young career, isn’t complaining, only leading through a very hard time the very best as he can.
To contact Jay Greenberg, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ScribeJG
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