When the Flyers traded for Marty "the Save-ior" Biron last season, the writing was on the wall that Robert Esche's career in Philly was over. Esche failed to land on another NHL roster during the off-season, and the Boston Globe reports that he has signed with Ak-Bars Kazan of the Russian Super League. Wonder how many times he'll hear "At least you're playing, Robert," from disappointed loved ones over the holidays.
We wish him success with the ladies of the Eastern bloc.
NEW YORK — Ron Hextall admitted there’s a bit of a double-edged sword to Claude Giroux.
“I think he’s pressing too hard,” Hextall said before Sunday night’s game. “It’s what you like about him; there’s a few guys like that. You like that [competitiveness] about them, but sometimes you become your own worst enemy because they beat themselves up.”
The captain was entering the day with a goal drought of 12 games, his longest since Oct. 2-Nov. 7, 2013, when he opened the season goalless in 15 contests.
“G wants to be successful at everything,” the general manager said. “Hopefully something good happens for him and he gets rolling. He’s too good of a player to play like this.”
Hextall got his wish.
Nearly four hours later, Giroux buried the game-winning goal of the Flyers’ 3-2 overtime win against the Islanders at the Barclays Center (see game story). Not only did it relieve Giroux of his funk, but it also did the same for the Flyers, who had lost three straight and 12 of their last 15.
"It's been tough the last couple of weeks,” Giroux said. “We know we're a better team.
“Obviously we can still be better but we needed this win tonight.”
And Giroux needed that goal. Over the previous 12 games, the Flyers’ second-leading scorer was a minus-13 with seven assists and just one even-strength point. It’s no coincidence the Flyers went 2-8-2 in those 12 games.
Giroux didn’t disagree with his boss.
“You want to succeed and you want to play the best you can,” he said. “Sometimes you push it a little too much. When you sit back and kind of look at the big picture, sometimes I think that's when you kind of realize you need to relax and just go out there and play.”
Before the game, head coach Dave Hakstol made a change that reaped the rewards. He decided to put Jakub Voracek back on the top line with Giroux and Michael Raffl. Giroux finished with six shots, his most since Dec. 21, while Voracek put up four and assisted the overtime winner.
“Well, I mean there are a lot of things that go into that,” Hakstol said of the move. “Those guys have success together, but more importantly, you look at some of the combinations as you go through the year when you’ve had success. Sometimes one change gives you a little bit of a jump-start. Those guys did a good job.”
Giroux’s goal was emblematic in a way that he simply planted himself in front of the net and tapped in Shayne Gostisbehere’s wraparound pass. There was no highlight-reel deke or miraculous shot.
Keeping it simple — as players often say — did the trick.
"Sometimes you don't need to try so hard,” Giroux said. “You need to go about your job and make sure you do the right things out there. Make sure you help your teammates and linemates. Just go out there and play hockey. We're supposed to have fun doing it, right? So sometimes you need to relax and kind of look at how you can get better.”
Sunday was a start.
Joel Embiid did not practice on Monday and is listed as doubtful for the Sixers' game Tuesday against the Clippers.
Embiid hyperextended his left knee in the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Blazers Friday. He said after the game that the knee was fine, but the Sixers are clearly exercising caution with their young star center. Embiid will also rest on Wednesday against the Bucks.
"I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way," Embiid said Friday. "I'm great. The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good."
The Sixers are calling it a left knee contusion. They're 13-17 when Embiid plays and 2-10 without him.
Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) was limited at Monday's practice but is probable to play the Clippers.
Okafor had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes in Saturday's 110-93 loss at Atlanta.
CSN Philly's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.