Some have suggested Team Canada’s Olympic snub of Claude Giroux is the real impetus in the meteoric rise of his game since Dec. 11.
Since that date, Giroux is No. 1 in the NHL with 51 points. Since Jan. 4, he has 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 27 games.
That latest point total includes the two he picked up Tuesday night with an assist and game-winning overtime goal to lead the Flyers past the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2 (see story).
Giroux’s 24th goal brought down defending Stanley Cup champs at the Wells Fargo Center.
“He’s been a tremendous leader as of late,” teammate Matt Read said. “Since the Olympic break he’s the hardest-working guy everywhere you go. He’s the first one here every day and in his mind it’s win, win, win at all cost.
“And any mistakes you make you hear about it on the bench from him. He just wants perfect from everybody, and his game has shown a lot. He’s on the ice, he’s working harder than everybody out there. It’s fun to watch how talented he is. He’s being a true leader right now and that’s what we need in this last push here.”
Giroux's two points moved him past Ron Sutter into 20th place on the Flyers’ all-time scoring list. Giroux now has 115 goals and 247 assists for 362 points in his NHL and Flyers career.
Which makes his game-winner that much better.
“I think it was a fun game to play,” Giroux said. “I’m sure it was a fun game to watch also, but I think we were just enjoying ourselves out there, just playing some hockey. It was rough, we got a hit, we were hitting, and that’s the best part of hockey.”
Scott Hartnell had the two previous goals.
“You could tell he wanted it,” Hartnell said. “He was skating pretty hard. It seems like he finds a way to get his shots through most of the time. He absolutely got off a rocket there.”
Hawks goalie Antti Raanta went down after the puck was already in the net.
“He didn’t even know it went in,” Hartnell said.
The Flyers and Giroux have had so many good games at home this season, it becomes difficult to define the fine thread that separates good from very good.
This much is certain: The Flyers recognized the danger this team presents off transition and made sure not to give Chicago any help in generating offense.
"I think they’re a team that if you do mistakes, they’re going to put it in our net,” Giroux said. “I think we were pretty responsible defensively. Coming into this game, that was the one thing -- we wanted to play good defense. When you play good defense, your offense is going to follow.”
Flyers coach Craig Berube and others say Giroux has become vocal in the dressing room, too.
“I mean he’s really been playing hard, really skating, attacking, he’s leading our team,” Berube said. “I think it starts on the bench, he’s vocal, he’s really into it all the time, does a very good job of keeping everybody going.”
Updated: 7 p.m.
Flyers winger Matt Read will miss approximately a month with an upper-body injury suffered in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Predators when he was checked by Filip Forsberg. Sources tell CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio the injury is an oblique muscle pull in Read's upper torso.
The 30-year-old has six goals and four assists for 10 points through 27 games. Five of those goals came in the Flyers' first five games.
To replace Read's roster spot, the Flyers recalled Taylor Leier and sent Scott Laughton to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. That likely means penalty-kill specialist Boyd Gordon (back), who is eligible to come off long-term injury reserve, will be activated.
Leier, 22, has been playing well with the Phantoms, posting six goals and 14 assists in 22 games (see Future Flyers Report). This is Leier's second stint of the season with the Flyers, albeit his first was short — one game on Oct. 25 in which he was a healthy scratch. He made his NHL debut last season and played six games.
Laughton was a healthy scratch the past five games.
If for some reason Gordon is not activated, the Flyers can call up another forward from Lehigh Valley. Jordan Weal is tied for second in the AHL with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 20 games, while veteran winger Colin McDonald is an experienced, bottom-six option.
The low point of the Flyers' season thus far came less than a month ago.
On Nov. 11 at Toronto, the Flyers were horrific in a 6-3 loss to a Maple Leafs club they should have beaten handily.
Since then, there has been gradual improvement, some setbacks, yet a calming effect has taken over Dave Hakstol’s Flyers, who are a riding a five-game winning streak in early December.
They've pulled within four points of the Metro Division-leading New York Rangers. And they own the No. 1 wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Indeed, Hakstol’s club has come a long way since the Toronto loss, when the Flyers were sixth in the division and 13th overall in the East.
“You go back to that poor performance up in Toronto, which was about a dozen games ago,” Hakstol said.
“Since that point in time, I think we’ve really taken pride in the consistency of our play and worrying about what we do on a day-to-day basis. It’s real important that we continue to do that.”
This is the best the Flyers have been after 27 games since 2013-14, when they were 12-13-2 with 26 points and within two points of the wild card.
“It’s an absolute dog fight every night and it’s going to continue to be the same dog fight in the standings all the way through,” Hakstol said.
The last time the Flyers won five straight was March 15-22, 2014 under Craig Berube.
There’s been a number of heroes during the five-game streak. Obviously, goalie Steve Mason sits atop those reasons with a 1.71 goals against average, .945 save percentage and four wins over that span.
“His play over the last stretch has been outstanding and he’s been a strong anchor for us,” Hakstol said.
“His confidence kind of goes hand-in-hand with our team’s confidence. They both feed off one another. You can see that throughout our entire game.”
Rookie Anthony Stolarz had the first victory to begin the streak against Calgary.
Mason will start Tuesday against Florida at Wells Fargo Center as the Flyers try to make it six in a row.
Offensively, the Flyers have gotten some significant contributions from others, too.
Jakub Voracek has a goal and six points, while Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux each have five points and a combined six goals.
Brayden Schenn and Chris VandeVelde, often overlooked for his offense because of his focus on the defensive side of the puck, each have four points and a combined three goals.
And don’t overlook a couple of defensemen who have had some moments — Michael Del Zotto and Ivan Provorov have a combined four goals during the streak.
Brandon Manning returned from a concussion on Saturday against Chicago, then had two pivotal plays near the end of Sunday’s game in Nashville by twice clearing the puck with the Preds attacking with six players.
His second clear resulted in VandeVelde’s clinching goal.
Little plays mean a lot during a winning streak and right now, the Flyers are getting them.
Matt Read suffered an oblique muscle pull, sources said, early in the game after being checked into the net by the Predators' Filip Forsberg during Sunday’s victory in Nashville.
The 30-year-old is out approximately a month (see story).