Get off Giroux's back

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux, with his shadow, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, in Game 3.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux, with his shadow, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, in Game 3.
Posted: April 25, 2014

RULE NO. 76: "No excuses. Play like a champion."

For Claude Giroux, that principle from the "Wedding Crashers" rule book is not just a saying, but a way of life.

For four games this season, and three more in the playoffs, Giroux has barely been able to wake up without a Rangers defender breathing all over him. No shift has gone unnoticed. No inch of ice has gone uncontested.

The Flyers' captain has not scored against New York in more than 2 years, or 13 straight games. Before the second period of Tuesday's Game 3, he had gone 311 minutes and 19 seconds without a shot on Henrik Lundqvist.

Giroux might be exhausted through three Stanley Cup playoff games, but he has not even broken rule No. 12: "When it stops being fun, break something." There has been no stick-smashing, no complaining. Just a relentless effort to try to put the Flyers on his back again for the 85th time this season.

What's it like having Rangers defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi practically follow you home after the game?

"It's playoff hockey," Giroux said yesterday. "You can't be complaining. I love it."

For many, Giroux is the easy scapegoat, the reason the Flyers could be teetering on the brink after tomorrow night's game in this best-of-seven Metropolitan Division semifinal matchup.

Yet, Giroux cannot and should not shoulder all of the blame for the Flyers' offensive failures this round. He has still managed to directly set up four goals in three games, despite the blanket coverage. That is not nothing - and it's not like he has a history of struggling on a playoff stage.

His teammates are the ones who have not seized the opportunities stemming from his double coverage. Linemates Scott Hartnell and Jake Voracek have yet to really cash in, even when Giroux has managed to get them the puck. Voracek's goal off the rush in Game 2 remains the only one scored by a Flyers forward at even strength in the series.

"I think that line worked hard," coach Craig Berube said after Game 3. "I think Giroux worked really hard and got a few shots, but I think with the power-play stuff, they have to be better. And they will be better."

For a Flyers team that boasted seven 20-goal scorers in the regular season, the scoring depth has run dry. Wayne Simmonds, Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read and Vinny Lecavalier have not picked up the slack for Giroux.

That is why Berube spread the blame among all four lines yesterday. He said his Flyers looked "too predictable" and "too slow" against Alain Vigneault's aggressive Rangers defense.

"Everybody in general, not just his line, has to find a way to will pucks into the net," Berube said. "Their team on the whole has done a really good job defensively, done a good job checking. There's not a lot of room out there.

"That's fine. We've got to play. We've got to understand that. They're going to have to battle through that. We need to have all five guys on the ice on the same page and be involved, otherwise you're going to be outnumbered."

How can the Flyers get to Lundqvist when the Rangers blocked 28 shots in Game 3? Simmonds subscribes to rule No. 9: "Whatever it takes to get in, get in," where so many rules could also apply to crashing the net and not just weddings.

"Keep pushing. Keep going," Simmonds said. "It's easy to look back and say what we could have done. We've still got a lot of games in front of us. [We need to] keep taking shots. Keep trying to take Lundqvist's eyes away. Keep going for second and third opportunities. Sometimes you've just got to will the puck to the back of the net."

Even trailing, Berube and the Flyers are a big believer in rule No. 6: "Do not sit in a corner and sulk. It brings attention in a negative way."

"Why wouldn't we be confident?" Berube asked. "This is no time to put your heads down. We lost the game at home here and we're down 2-1. We need to be positive. We need to do some things better. We've got to try to score some more goals."

Giroux made the boldest statement on Oct. 21 when he said the 1-7 Flyers would make the playoffs. They started their quest with a win the next game, against - who else? - the Rangers. That's why no one following this series - not even Rangers coach Vigneault - was surprised when Giroux predicted the Flyers would win tomorrow to even the series.

"If we play our game, if we play the right way, we're going to win," Giroux reiterated yesterday. "I think you guys [the media] are hitting the panic button here. I personally think if we play the same way, we're going to win on Friday."

As talented as he is, Giroux can't do it all. He has picked up his teammates on every occasion this season - and now they need to return the favor with this in mind:

Rule No. 65: "When your crash partner fails, you fail. No man is an island."


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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