One of the more startling stats following the Flyers' tense 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday was individual faceoffs.
Claude Giroux won 72 percent of his draws. He was a perfect 7 for 7 against righthander Steven Stamkos and won 6 of 9 from lefty Vinny Lecavalier.
“Didn’t know that,” Giroux said.
As of Wednesday, Giroux had taken the highest number of faceoffs in the league -- 242 -- with the best percentage of anyone who had taken more than 230 draws -- 55.4 percent.
Recall he led the team last season at 53.7 percent -- the only Flyer regular over 50 percent.
“It’s something that I have been working on a lot lately,” Giroux said. “It’s going to be up and down during the season.
“You have stretches where the bounces don’t go your way. The puck hits the ref's skate and doesn’t go on your side. Right now, I will take them for sure.”
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he sees nothing really different about Giroux in the circle, other than maturity.
“As you get older and stronger and more experienced with the people you are taking faceoffs against, that can improve you through the course of time,” Laviolette said.
While Giroux is strong on the draws, overall, the Flyers as a team remain rather poor, ranked 27th in the league at 46.5 percent.
There was some genuine concern over the summer about Giroux’s faceoff ability this season following dual wrist surgery.
The assumption was that he had taken a couple slashes from Sidney Crosby during the Pittsburgh series in the playoffs.
While that was true, Giroux said it was actually something more basic that had occurred before that series.
“I went into the boards a couple times and rolled my wrists a couple times,” he said. “But it had been like that since junior. I wasn’t sure how the process would go with the rehab and such. It went very well and I had a good doctor (Thomas Graham), which made it easier.”
Even though he played a month in Germany during the lockout, Giroux didn’t know what to expect once the real games began in the NHL again.
“A month there, and knock on wood, I haven’t had any problems with it since,” he said. “I’m happy everything went well.”
Through 10 games, Giroux, who is right-handed, has been 65 percent or better three times. Ironically, his worst game came at Florida in late January when he won just four of 18 draws, and got cleaned by Tomas Kopecky, who was a perfect 8 for 8 against him.
Thursday night, Kopecky, a lefty, figures to matchup a few times in the circle once again with Giroux.
“Obviously, you look to see if he is a righty or lefty before a game,” Giroux said. “You see how he tries to win a faceoff. Yesterday, I was good on faceoffs, but I am going to have some bad games. [Tonight], who knows?”
Just like his teammates, Giroux has struggled to find consistency in the early going of this shortened season. He has just three goals and six points on a Flyers' squad that is goal-starved at the moment.
“Up and down,” was how he rated his season.
“Personally, I think I can play better. It’s just a process right now. We’re getting everyone on the same system and having fun doing it. There’s a lot hockey left to play.”
Of the Flyers' shallow 23 goals, almost a third of them came during that 7-1 rout of the Panthers on Jan. 26.
Defensively and in goal with Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers have played well. A few more goals and the Flyers wouldn’t be looking up at nearly everyone else in the Eastern Conference right now.
“It’s funny, 10 games in, we’re looking at the standings every day,” Giroux said. “It’s going to be tight till the end. One win or one loss can be eighth place or 14th place. Every game is very important.”