Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux has had a strong start to the season, scoring eleven points across nine games, but last night may have been his worst game of the season. He was held without a point for just the second time and left the game a -3, although one of those minuses came from an empty net goal against. Great timing on my part by choosing him yesterday, eh?
A solid start
Giroux’s night actually started really strong, making his presence felt in the first shift of the game by making a fantastic defensive read that denied Erik Johnson of a high danger chance at the net.
Mikko Rantanen sent a saucer pass through a maze of bodies that looked like it was going to land right on Johnson’s tape, but Giroux was able to bat it out of the air and go on to start a defensive zone breakout. He’s covering the middle of the ice like a center typically would as his center’s, Sean Couturier, assignment looked to be shadowing Nathan MacKinnon.
He had one scoring chance in the first period where he picked up the rebound of a blocked point shot and he went on to shoot it directly into the crest of Semyon Varlamov’s jersey. Unfortunately, that would end up being his best chance of the night and one of just two high danger scoring chances for the Captain.
Something that Giroux excelled at last night - to the eye test anyway - was zone entries. While his first was just a stretch pass tip-in play, the ones that followed were mostly all successful and with control.
It’s nothing flashy, but he made himself available for an outlet pass through the neutral zone from Jakub Voracek, and then made a quick pass to Nolan Patrick once they were in the offensive zone. It’s merely a support play, but it led to a Flyers’ cycle.
His worst moment of the period came when he was in a one-on-one battle with Rantanen and Giroux got away with a couple of slashes and ending u biting on a head fake. Luckily for the Flyers, Rantanen’s pass to the point bounced over Tyson Barrie’s stick and they were forced to reset their attack.
The final shift of the period was curious to me, as it showed a lack of cohesiveness from the top line. While Giroux’s entry was a thing of beauty, what followed just seemed a bit off.
I can’t imagine the plan is to bank on Wayne Simmonds winning a 1-on-2 board battle, but for whatever reason that’s what happens here. He almost pulls it off, but when he attempts to pass it up the boards to Provorov just after the gif ends, Gabriel Landeskog intercepts it and takes it the other way. One of the other forwards have to support Simmonds better than they did here.
His best shift
It what happened to be the final shift of the second period, Giroux went to work by first undressing MacKinnon right after entering the offensive zone, and then drawing a hooking penalty on his opposing captain in Landeskog.
Whew, that’s pretty. After skating around the diving Ian Cole, Giroux simply threw it towards the front of the net where the Flyers regained control and it eventually led to him drawing the previously mentioned minor. So yeah, the entry might not have led to, well, anything, but it could have! Yeah that’s not exactly heartening.
It was cool, okay!
Two shifts prior he made a fantastic play in the neutral zone covering up for the pinching Robert Hagg when he denied a zone entry in a unique way.
As Landeskog attempts to dump the puck in, Giroux swats it out of mid-air like it’s nothing and is quickly able to send the puck out of the zone and send the Flyers up the ice. Giroux’s hand-eye coordination was on display a ton last night and there was no instance more impressive.
It was plays like these that led to the Flyers out-attempting the Avalanche at 5-on-5 when Giroux was on the ice twenty to ten. However, Giroux and his line were actually the team’s worst at generating quality chances. In the just over seventeen minutes that Giroux played at 5-on-5, the Flyers generated just four scoring chances and conceded six. To add some perspective, that means that 20% of Philadelphia’s shot attempts while Giroux was on the ice qualified as scoring chances, while 60% of Colorado’s did. That’s not exactly what you’re looking for out of your top line.
The big mistake
You always remember the mistakes that end up in the back of the net and boy, this was a back breaker.
Giroux whiffs and Landeskog scores. pic.twitter.com/L0s8VrgMyt— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 23, 2018
You’re just two and a half minutes into the third period, only down by two, and you have your top line and top defensive pair on the ice for an offensive zone draw. That cannot be the outcome.
He’s not without a share of the blame for the Matt Nieto goal that made it 2-0 either, as he was the player standing between the passer, Matt Calvert, and the eventual goal-scorer in Nieto.
Right through Provorov's legs. pic.twitter.com/sZyVtgupaA— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 23, 2018
Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the passer for making a great play, but both Giroux and Provorov had the opportunity to stop this shot from happening and failed to do so. Had Giroux been a bit more aggressive here and made a play for the puck, he probably deflects the pass and the game remains 1-0.
It’s Claude Giroux. He’s going to have better games moving forward, and while that doesn’t absolve him of the mistakes he made in last night’s game, it’s just that; one game. Going into Thursday night’s game against the Boston Bruins, where the battle of the top lines will probably decide who wins the game, it’s time to put Giroux back on a line that has shown it can work. It’s time to put Travis Konecny back on the top line.
Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick