Flyers need Giroux to regain star power in Game 4

Claude Giroux , here getting taken down in Game 3 by the Devils' Marek Zildlicky as goalie Martin Brodeur stops the puck, is among the Flyers stars who have struggled in this series. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Claude Giroux , here getting taken down in Game 3 by the Devils' Marek Zildlicky as goalie Martin Brodeur stops the puck, is among the Flyers stars who have struggled in this series. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 06, 2012

Claude Giroux stood there, his arms folded, gently stroking his ginger playoff beard and trying to come up with an answer.

The assembled press corps was eager for Giroux's take on why the recently dubbed "best player in the world" dropped off from a type of first-round series that would satisfy most players for an entire playoff run to just one point in three games against the New Jersey Devils.

Giroux, 24, shrugged off the questions.

"We were one goal away from us leading 2-1," Giroux said. "It doesn't mean that because they have a 2-1 lead that we have doubt. Both sides have had chances, it could have been either way.

"The message is clear. We know we can play better as a team. I think we'll see a different group of guys next game."

Giroux has been quiet. His lone goal of this Eastern Conference semifinal series is on the power play, after an effort where he averaged more than two points a game against Pittsburgh in the first round. His staggering 14 points were second in franchise history to only Tim Kerr in one playoff series.

Giroux has been held scoreless in two straight games. Put in perspective, he went from Jan. 31 to March 29 in the regular season without going pointless in back-to-back games.

Officially, Giroux has not collected a point against New Jersey in 153 minutes, 2 seconds. He has as many points as Devils grinder Stephen Gionta.

In Thursday night's Game 3 loss, Giroux opened himself to speculation that he is injured by not taking a string of five faceoffs, a rarity for the superstar center. Scott Hartnell was left to the take the draws.

Is Giroux hurt? The Flyers won't say. The reality is that at this point in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the only healthy players are the ones who have been watching from the press box.

Frustration is setting in. Coach Peter Laviolette shook up the Flyers' lines on Saturday again, moving Giroux away from Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. That line has been successful for most of this season.

"I think everyone's frustrated," Hartnell said. "You can tell with [Giroux] that he wants to make something happen every time he's on the ice, and I think we all know that's basically impossible. Whether it's losing a puck battle at the wrong time, or whatever, it seems like it's almost contagious right now. Everybody's doing it.

"It's OK to be frustrated to a point, but we've got to get back our focus and get back to doing what we do well."

Giroux said the Flyers need to do a better job adjusting from their first-round battle against Pittsburgh, which is long over. In fact, Penguins star Sidney Crosby - with plenty of time on his hands now - was in Louisville on Saturday for the Kentucky Derby.

"We've got to find the same emotion that we had against Pittsburgh," Giroux said. "There were a lot of things going on in that series. It's not going to be as open as Pittsburgh. We need to understand that.

"If we have to win 1-0, good enough."

In Game 4, the Flyers face the possibility of leaving New Jersey with a chance to be eliminated on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The Flyers have won only one series in franchise history (1 for 14) when trailing three games to one in a series.

"There's going to be ups and downs," Matt Carle said. "It's not the first time we've been down [this season]. We're only down 2-1. There's a little added pressure in this game. We're trying to approach it as a must-win. We just need to find a way to win one game."

The best chance to win one game is on Giroux's back. He has enjoyed the pressure before, asking for the first shift - and almost magically scoring a goal - with a chance to close out the Penguins in Game 6.

And the Flyers, if anyone, know how crippling it can be to watch an opponent's stars go radio silent in a series.

Giroux, meanwhile, seems unflappable. On Sunday night, it will be business as usual. It's probably not coincidental that the Flyers have not lost three straight games at any point this season and Giroux has never gone more than three consecutive games without points.

"Since the start of the year, I don't think we've ever been the type of team that quits," Giroux said. "We're excited to come back again. I've just got to be patient and wait for my chances."


Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or on Twitter @DNFlyers. Read his blog, "Frequent Flyers," at www.philly.com/frequentflyers.

 

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