Flyers' Giroux, van Riemsdyk need to be more goal-oriented

Posted: October 07, 2010

PITTSBURGH - When asked about his offense, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette can barely control his excitement.

Sure, Laviolette is fired up about steady goal scorer Jeff Carter, the streaky scoring of Scott Hartnell and the addition of uber-talented winger Nikolay Zherdev and eager to see the continued success of Ville Leino.

But if you ask Laviolette, he is most interested in charting the development of young guns Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk beginning tonight in Pittsburgh, where the Flyers open their 43rd season.

"A lot of the pieces are the same as last year,'' Laviolette said, "but we want to see if we can take that next step. I think what's going to be interesting to watch is going to be the development of Giroux, the development of van Riemsdyk."

Giroux, 22, will be the first to tell you he wasn't pleased with the way last season turned out. After dazzling fans with five points in six playoff games in the 2009 playoffs, Giroux didn't exactly live up to the lofty expectations in his first full NHL season, with 16 goals and 31 assists.

By posting 21 points in 23 playoff games, Giroux not only atoned for his mediocre regular season but also reminded himself of the consistency he needs for this season.

"Even the playoffs didn't erase the taste of last season," Giroux said. "I'm pretty excited about this season. I think last year really helped my game. Going through the playoffs, it was a great experience.

"It's a long season, it's 82 games. I learned that you've got to find a way to show up every game and find a way to work and help your team win every game. It's a long season."

Van Riemsdyk, 21, learned early last year that 82 games are a marathon, not a sprint - especially for someone who never had played more than 37 games in a season before jumping from the University of New Hampshire to the NHL.

Van Riemsdyk struggled with consistency last season. Six of his 15 goals and 13 of his 20 assists came in the first 2 months. He suffered through separate pointless streaks of 14, nine and seven games.

"In this league, you need to be prepared mentally and physically every night to put yourself in a position to succeed,'' van Riemsdyk said. "You're obviously going to have some low points and high points, but it takes that middle ground to make a difference.''

Laviolette called him one of the most consistent players in training camp. In six preseason games, van Riemsdyk posted two goals and one assist. He likely will open the season tonight on a line with Giroux.

This summer, van Riemsdyk added 6 pounds of muscle to his 6-3 frame. He is noticeably faster - now one of the quickest on the roster - and is well-equipped for the long haul.

"This summer was great, it felt great to get back on the ice," van Riemsdyk said. "I think the experience that I gained last season will go a long way. It's a long season. I just want to get off to a good start."

Giroux and van Riemsdyk are two of the most talented young players in the NHL. But Giroux noted that can only take you so far in a league full of talent.

"On paper, offensively we are skilled," Giroux said. "But I don't think it matters if you're skilled or not, you have to put the work in if you want to score goals. You aren't going to win games with just your skills."

The Flyers scored 2.83 goals per game last year, ninth best in the league. With the addition of Zherdev, a player who has averaged 25 goals in his last two NHL seasons, and more consistency from Giroux and van Riemsdyk, the Flyers could be a dangerous team offensively.

As van Riemsdyk said, a good start could go a long way.

Last year, the Flyers won their first two games - on the road in Carolina and New Jersey - but fell back to a 13-11-1 start, costing John Stevens his job.

"You can't win the Stanley Cup in October," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "But I think history shows that if you get off to a tough start, it's difficult to get back into the thick of things."

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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