This past Tuesday night, the Flyers held those same Blackhawks in check and eventually won an overtime thriller in South Philly when Claude Giroux sniped a ridiculous shot with just seconds left.
Using those two games with the Blackhawks as bookmarks, who has the most points in the NHL in that time span?
Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks? Nope. Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals? Try again. Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane of the aforementioned Blackhawks? No dice. Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin of those rotten Pittsburgh Penguins? Wrong.
The answer is Giroux. And it’s about time the Flyers’ captain gets some love in the conversation surrounding the Hart Trophy, the league’s MVP award.
Since Dec. 11, Giroux has the most points in the league with 51. He’s been on an absolute tear with 19 goals and 32 assists in that span.
Overall, he’s fourth in the league with 71 points. He trails just Getzlaf, Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Crosby, who leads the league with 91.
A legitimate argument can be made that Giroux has been the best and most dominant player in the league since the middle of December.
He’s scored some huge, clutch goals in that span, too. Remember his spinning game-winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets? Or his game-tying goal with just a minute left in Washington against the Capitals a few weeks ago? And, of course, there was this past Tuesday’s absurd overtime goal against the Blackhawks.
More recently, Giroux’s been on fire since the league returned from the Olympics that Team Canada snubbed him from. Giroux has 14 points – five goals and nine assists - in the nine games since the Olympic break.
His leadership has been on display through example on the ice, too. He’s been giving it 100% every time he’s on the ice and refuses to give up on a play. He’s out there playing like he has something to prove and won’t rest until he until he gets his team back to playoffs.
And that’s the way it has to be for the Flyers to get back to the playoffs.
This team’s offensive identity is scoring balance led by the captain. They have seven players with 15 or more goals led by Giroux with 24. Not surprisingly, he also leads the team in assists with 47 of them. He knows he needs to be the offensive catalyst for his team to be successful. And he’s been just that.
Imagine what Giroux’s numbers would be like if he wasn’t arguably the most disappointing player in the league for the first six weeks of the season and had actually scored a goal or two in those first six weeks. Luckily goalie Steve Mason and winger Wayne Simmonds were there to give the team a pulse.
Sure, there were other issues surrounding the Flyers at that time, but it’s not a coincidence that the team struggled mightily as Giroux struggled mightily. But since then, it’s been a total 180 for both he and the team.
Odds are Giroux won’t be the Flyers’ first Hart Trophy winner since Eric Lindros in 1994-95. Love or hate him (ok, mostly hate), Sidney Crosby will likely win the award. He’s going to break the 100-point barrier and he’s been the best player in the league the entire season, not just since the middle of December.
But Giroux most certainly deserves to be in the conversation and the recognition for the way he’s elevated his game and his team’s game over the last four months.
He’ll try to keep his MVP-caliber play going when the Flyers welcome the Dallas Stars to Wells Fargo Center tonight.
Much like the Flyers, the Stars are desperate for points. They currently sit just two points out of the last wild card spot in the stacked Western Conference.
The Stars clobbered the Flyers, 5-1, when the teams met in Dallas in December. Stars’ winger Tyler Seguin, who sits just behind Giroux with 70 points on the year and is seventh in the league with 31 goals, posted a hat trick in that game. He’s torched the Flyers for eight goals in 11 career games against them so it goes without saying that the Flyers’ defense will have to key in on him when he’s on the ice.
Mason will be back in the net tonight for the Flyers after Ray Emery defeated the Blackhawks on Tuesday. It will be Mason’s ninth start in 10 games but he is coming off that weekend shutdown of the Penguins.
Puck drops at 7 p.m. if you’re not in a college basketball-induced coma by then.