Well, it only took six weeks, but Flyers’ superstar Claude Giroux finally scored his first goal of the 2013-14 season.
Giroux wristed the puck past Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk at 11 minutes, 26 seconds of the third period for the eventual game-winner in the Flyers’ 4-2 victory over the Oilers this past Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
Jay Rosehill – yes, that Jay Rosehill, - Scott Hartnell and Vinny Lecavalier also lit the lamp for the Flyers on Saturday but Giroux’s tally -- which, dating back to the tail end of last season, snapped a 21-game goalless drought for the Flyers’ captain -- is the goal that had the attention of Flyer fans after the game.
And rightfully so.
Before Saturday, the last time had scored a goal was on April 15th during a 7-3 win over the Canadiens in Montreal.
Sure, the Flyers have a plethora of issues that have hampered their offense, but it should come as no surprise that Flyers’ has offense sputtered as Giroux’s offensive game has sputtered.
Entering the game against Edmonton, the Flyers averaged a league-worst 1.47 goals per game. Despite the four goals they put up on the Oilers, the Flyers still average a league worst 1.62 goals, but they are creeping closer to getting out that basement as the Buffalo Sabres average just 1.63 goals per game.
But throw those facts aside now that the captain and the team’s best player and playmaker is on the board. Not only is he on the board, some of the pressure is off his back.
Giroux’s stick-in-the-air-glass-pounding celebration seemed to indicate just that. He also had quite a look of relief considering things had gotten so bad that Giroux admitted to Steve Coates in a postgame interview that fans would come up to him in the supermarket and get on him about finally scoring a goal.
Let the man grocery shop in peace now, please.
Now that he’s off the schnide, he can get back to being, you know, Claude Giroux. And the Flyers need him to be, you know, Claude Giroux, because the team has the look of one that pretty much goes as Giroux goes due to the lack of secondary scoring or any scoring, so far.
The fact that Giroux finally scored shouldn’t be the only reason for encouragement. It’s the way he scored that should have fans excited.
Giroux took control of a loose puck in his defensive zone, skated down the near wing, cut to the middle of the ice, used the defenseman’s positioning to his advantage as a screen and whistled puck past Dubnyk from the mid-slot area.
The goal wasn’t set up on a tee for Giroux nor was Giroux the beneficiary of a lucky bounce or bad goaltender positioning, not that he of Flyer fans wouldn’t have gladly taken those scenarios. He created the goal on his own.
Sure, the goal was scored during 4-on-4 play when there was a little more open space on the ice, but the point here is that he created that goal with his skill. He took what the defense gave him and didn’t try to do too much or make a bad decision.
He used his skill to create offense, which is something most of the Flyers’ more-skilled players, Giroux included, hasn’t really done this season.
And it’s exactly what Giroux needs to keep doing. He needs to have the puck on his stick. He needs to continue to be more selfish and make plays and shoot, just like he did on Saturday.
I get Edmonton isn’t a very good team, especially defensively, but Giroux seemed to be all over the ice on Saturday and seemed to have shot the puck more.
He finished the contest with four shots on net, his second-most shots on goal so far this season and equal to his output the previous two games combined. He had very good chances through out the game, too.
In the second period, Giroux cut in as the trailer on a rush and had a wide-open lane to Dubnyk, who robbed him with a great save on a backhander. During the ensuing net-front scramble, Giroux found the puck on his stick with what looked like a open net, but had his shot knocked down in the crease by sliding Oilers’ forward Ryan Smyth in desperation.
Shortly before Giroux scored, Jake Voracek found him with a cross-ice pass at the bottom of the faceoff dot but Giroux ripped a one-timer wide.
But at least he was shooting.
Prior to Saturday, Giroux had registered just one shot on goal in six of Philadelphia’s 15 games. That’s not good enough for a struggling team’s best offensive player.
I’m not saying it will be, but if this team turns it around, Giroux’s play on Saturday against the Oilers could be looked upon as a turning point because Giroux was slightly-more selfish, began to take matters into his own hands and finally found some confidence.
A confident, more-selfish Giroux is a dangerous Giroux. And a dangerous Giroux is exactly what the Flyers need.