Fourteen games in, Giroux still seeking first goal

Flyers captain Claude Giroux battling New Jersey's Jacob Josefson in a Nov. 2 game. "We still have 70 games left to play," Giroux said. "Patience is key right now."
Flyers captain Claude Giroux battling New Jersey's Jacob Josefson in a Nov. 2 game. "We still have 70 games left to play," Giroux said. "Patience is key right now." (RICH SCHULTZ / AP)
Posted: November 08, 2013

Flyers captain Claude Giroux, hailed as the "best player in the world" by then-coach Peter Laviolette a couple of seasons ago, has fewer goals this year than Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, fewer than 52 NHL rookies, fewer than seldom-used defenseman Erik Gustaffson.

The 25-year-old center, signed to an eight-year, $66.2 million contract extension in July, is trying to remain upbeat, but the strain of starting the season without a goal in 14 games is wearing on him. You can hear it in his voice, see it in his body language.

In Carolina the other day, he appeared annoyed by questions about the team's scoring malaise. The Flyers are last in the NHL, averaging 1.57 goals per game.

"If you see a positive stat, let me know," he said.

It's not easy being positive when you examine the Flyers' 4-9-1 start, including a 2-1 overtime loss Tuesday against an awful Carolina team that had lost five straight and was missing its first- and second-string goalies and its leading scorer, among others.

The Flyers, who will host offensive-challenged New Jersey on Thursday in a matchup that could cure insomnia, aren't losing just because Giroux isn't scoring; they are losing because almost everybody isn't scoring.

They have scored two or fewer goals in 13 of their 14 games. They have 388 shots on goal and 394 shots that have either missed the net or were blocked.

Coach Craig Berube, trying to find a productive combination, tinkered with his lines during Wednesday's practice in Voorhees. Right winger Jake Voracek was put on the top line and reunited with Giroux and Scott Hartnell, a trio that has produced a total of two goals.

"At some point, they need to start producing," Berube said. "I think [because] guys were in and out of the lineup with injury, we had to move guys around a little bit. These guys are familiar with each other. They've played well together before. I expect them to get out of it and start playing well."

"We still have 70 games left to play. Patience is key right now," Giroux said. "When we get one, we'll get plenty."

The Flyers have been playing a defensive style, but Berube said they aren't going into each game thinking they can win only if it's a low-scoring affair.

"That's not our mind-set; that's just the reality right now because the puck's not going in the net," the coach said. "Until you start putting the puck in the net more, then you do have to win 2-1 or 1-0. That's just the way it goes. There's going to be lots of games where it's tight like that and you've got to win them. Good teams win them."

During Wednesday's practice, Vinny Lecavalier, who played five games as Giroux's right winger, dropped down to the second line, where he will center Brayden Schenn and Matt Read, who replaced Wayne Simmonds. The third line had Sean Couturier centering Michael Raffl and Simmonds.

Berube hopes that Voracek can get Giroux going.

"I just wanted to get Vinny back in the middle, too," he said. "It gets him some freedom to skate a little bit more and get moving and just trying to create some offense five-on-five."

Going back to last season, Giroux has not scored a goal in his last 20 games. It's not for a lack of effort, Voracek said.

"That's why he's such a good leader, because he's so tough on himself. He wants the best out of himself and out of everyone else," Voracek said. "I'm sure once he gets that one little [goal], everything will get better."

"We need to stay positive," Giroux said. "We're a good team. When we start believing it and we start playing like it, we're going to be a dangerous team."


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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