Inside the Flyers: With Giroux's resurgence, Flyers pick up steam

"We haven't been out West for a few years," said the Flyers' Jake Voracek, "and with the time change and everything we have to be prepared."
"We haven't been out West for a few years," said the Flyers' Jake Voracek, "and with the time change and everything we have to be prepared." (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: December 30, 2013

EDMONTON, Alberta - Aside from leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup, center Claude Giroux would like nothing more than to be selected to play for Team Canada in the Olympics.

"Obviously, everybody wants to represent their country," he said the other day. "But I can't worry about what I can't control."

Giroux said his No. 1 priority has nothing to do with the Olympics and everything to do with steering the Flyers into the playoffs.

It was Giroux, you'll recall, who said the Flyers - a team that had already dismissed its coach and had a 1-7 record at the time - would be playing in the postseason.

Patience, he told anyone who would listen.

And it has been Giroux, more than any other Flyers forward, who has led the team's resurgence.

Giroux was hindered by a still-aching right hand - he had finger surgery after a bizarre golf injury in mid-August - and he got off to an awful start.

Not too coincidentally, so did the Flyers.

Giroux had no goals and seven points in the first 15 games as the Flyers started 4-10-1.

"When you have a tough start, it's tough to get that confidence back," Giroux acknowledged. "When the team starts winning, the confidence goes up."

Giroux has picked up the scoring pace, increased his chances of making the Olympic team, and carried the Flyers back into the playoff hunt.

Entering Saturday night's game in Edmonton against old pal Ilya Bryzgalov, Giroux was on a career-high seven-game points streak, during which he had 13 points on five goals and eight assists. That gave him 10 goals and 33 points in 37 games overall. The Flyers are 8-0-1 when he has scored a goal and 9-16-3 when he has not.

"Slowly I'm starting to feel better, and the offense is there, and the team's winning, so if it keeps going like this, I think it's going to look real good for the future," he said.

As Giroux goes, so go the Flyers.

The 25-year-old captain is at his best when he plays with an edge. That's what we've seen in the last few weeks instead of the woe-is-me body language that was present earlier in the season, back when his shots were hitting iron or he was looking skyward after the opposing goalie robbed him with a big save.

Early in the year, "I don't think he had enough luck, to be honest with you, and he was working way hard," said winger Jake Voracek, one of Giroux's linemates.

Since Michael Raffl replaced Scott Hartnell and joined Giroux and Voracek, that line has taken off. In their first six games together, they combined for 28 points and a plus-21 rating. Raffl, a rookie from Austria, has supplied some speed, some gritty work along the boards and out front, and some timely passing.

"We have a pretty good chemistry going," Giroux understated.

The Flyers on Saturday started a six-game road trip that could lay the groundwork for how the rest of the season will go.

"It's significant enough, for sure," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "We've kind of clawed our way back into things and now we have to continue, so it's important from that standpoint. You look at the standings and there's a bunch of teams clumped together, so every game is important to some degree."

For Giroux, the games no longer seem like a chore, as he appeared to be making them in the season's first month.

"Anytime you win, everything is more fun," said Giroux, whose team began Saturday with a 16-9-4 record since its franchise-worst 1-7 start. "There's a little bit less stress, and I don't have to worry about you guys [reporters] as much."

Giroux smiled. It was the smile of someone who isn't worried about impressing the Olympic brass.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

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