Claude Giroux FINALLY scores his first goal of season

Claude Giroux FINALLY scores his first goal of season

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.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).