Giroux, Flyers need rapid turnaround to stay in playoff race

Giroux, Flyers need rapid turnaround to stay in playoff race

March 15, 2013, 11:00 am
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They are staring down the gun barrel of a rather long shotgun.
 
As the Flyers prepare to meet the New Jersey Devils Friday night at Wells Fargo Center in the second of their home-and-home encounter, the standings have changed again.
 
And it’s not in the Flyers’ favor.
 
Winnipeg’s 3-1 victory over the Rangers on Thursday night bumped the Rangers to the ninth seed and moved the Jets to eighth with 30 points. The gap between the final playoff seed and the Flyers (11th) is now five points, and both teams ahead of them have games in hand, making makes the stakes that much larger as the Devils sit sixth with 31 points.
 
Sportsclubstats.com as of Friday morning gives the Flyers a 7.5% chance of making the playoffs. Those are rather daunting odds. Still, Flyers captain Claude Giroux hasn’t given up on the playoffs.
 
“I don’t truly believe we’re done if we lose this game,” Giroux said. “Obviously, it’s a big game for us. We need to climb back in the standings, but you can’t be saying that the season’s going to be over if you lose this game.
 
“Obviously, we need to play the way we can play. And it’ll be one game at a time. The message is clear ... Everybody knows what to do out there.”
 
On Thursday morning, general manager Paul Holmgren, gave the club a piece of his mind, walking about the dressing room with a stick in hand.
 
Hours later, Holmgren told the media more than once that the single, biggest thing he is upset about is the club’s lack of competitiveness. So it stands to reason that the GM lectured the team on just that – competing.
 
Anyone who ever saw him play would tell you “compete” was one word that defined the essence of Holmgren’s being on the ice.
 
“The guys know they can play a big game and win a big game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They have won big games. We haven’t done it consistently enough and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in.
 
“Trying to find some sort of run of games where’s there a lot more up than down, starting with a big game would be a big place to spring board that. We just haven’t been able to do it.”
 
There are 20 games left, including this one. If the Flyers intend to defy the odds, they need 16 wins, starting tonight.
 
Laviolette said his club has to be “loose” and not uptight. The captain’s body language himself lately has changed.
 
Holmgren admitted on Thursday that not having Jaromir Jagr around has hurt Giroux. How? Jagr created space for Giroux on the ice by drawing attention to himself.
 
Giroux’s scoring is down this season from 1.2 points a game to .92.
 
Laviolette has no one he can place on Giroux’s line that draws the kind of attention Jagr did, which is why NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk told the Courier Post this week that Giroux needs to find space himself without help from others.
 
Understandably, Giroux hasn’t been his usual chipper self with a losing club in his first year of captaincy.
 
“It’s pretty easy to be loose when you’re winning,” Giroux said. “I’m just not happy with the way I’m playing, the way the team’s playing, the [direction] the team is going. On game days I’m loose. I know what I have to be out there. What, you don’t think I’m loose out there, or what?
 
“I’m just a guy that doesn’t like to lose. I’m a competitive guy. Anytime I lose, I try anything I can do to get back to winning. ... There’s a lot of games left to play here.
 
“Obviously, we feel we can turn this around. We’re a good team. If we can find a way to play the way we can play, we’re going to be a dangerous team.”