Contrary to popular belief, blame for Flyers' playoff exit shouldn't all fall on Claude Giroux

Contrary to popular belief, blame for Flyers' playoff exit shouldn't all fall on Claude Giroux

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.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).