When you’re the captain of a Philadelphia Flyers team that just suffered a frustrating first-round exit at the hands of a hated rival, glaring eyes of disappointment are going to be focused on you in the following days.
So it should come as no surprise that is the exact situation Claude Giroux finds himself in at this very moment after the Flyers quietly bowed out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers this past Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Even though Giroux didn’t have anywhere near the best series of his life, placing all the blame for the Flyers’ ouster on the Hart Trophy finalist isn’t very fair.
First off, let’s give the Rangers some credit. They played smothering defense and blocked a boatload of shots. The defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh drew Giroux most of the series and played incredibly well against him.
Also, it’s hard to score when your team can barely get the puck out of its own zone and allows the Rangers to have as much puck possession as they did, but that’s another story for another day.
But, yes, Giroux struggled at times in the series and was too passive when he had certain opportunities to shoot. That said, he still led the team with six points in seven games. G, Jake Voracek and rookie Jason Akeson were the only ones really creating legitimate scoring opportunities.
Outside of those three, the series was a total team offensive failure for the Flyers.
Excluding empty-net goals, Philadelphia scored just 14 goals in seven games. For those of you not well-equipped in the field of mathematics, that’s an average of just two goals per game. That’s just not going to work, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against a defense like the Rangers have.
To make matters worse, four of those 14 goals came from defensemen whose main objective is to, you know, play defense. Their main objective isn’t to score.
Among the Flyers’ 20-goal scorers in the regular season, Scott Hartnell and Brayden Schenn didn’t score in the series. Vinny Lecavalier and Matt Read each tallied just once. Take away Wayne Simmonds’ hat trick in Game 6 and all he had was an empty-netter.
As you may have noticed, Giroux’s offensive backup just didn’t show up in the series. Outside of Voracek and Akeson, a rookie who played just two career regular season games before bursting onto the scene in this series, Giroux rarely had any help.
And when that happened, the Rangers were able hone in even more on Giroux and take away what little space he already had.
So while the pressure and blame comes with the territory of being the Flyers’ captain, all of it shouldn’t fall on Giroux. There is plenty of blame to go around for the Flyers’ offensive struggles against the Rangers.
Steve Mason deserved a much better fate.
If it’s any consolation, this Penguins-Rangers matchup we’re subjected to is a matchup of the NHL’s two most overrated teams that are playing to be eaten alive by the Canadiens or Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.