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Return Flight: Claude Giroux ends the series vs. Pittsburgh

In one of the wildest playoff series’ in Flyers history, an emerging star made his mark.

Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

In the 2011 off-season, the Flyers handed the reigns to Claude Giroux. Captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter were dealt to Los Angeles and Columbus respectively. Giroux was coming off of a breakout season where he scored 76 points on the season, after he was a top point producer in the 2010 Cup run. The forward corps would now be in his hands, as the Flyers entered the great unknown that would be the 2011-12 season.

From day one, it was clear the Flyers had one of the top lines in hockey. Giroux was centered between Scott Hartnell and off-season acquisition Jaromir Jagr. The latter had just come out of retirement, having last played in 2007-08 with the New York Rangers. To be fair, he scored 71 points playing in all 82 games, but this was now a 39-year-old Jagr. Many wondered how he would look back in the league, and boy did he not disappoint.

The trio were lethal together, with Giroux and Hartnell having career seasons. The former posting a 93 point regular season in 77 games played, and finishing fourth in the MVP race. Hartnell scored a career high 37 goals playing with the elite passers in Giroux and Jagr. Speaking of the Czech forward, although his season would be hampered at times by injury issues, he still managed a 54 points in 73 games played season exceeding expectations.

But of course the biggest story with the 2011-12 Flyers was the goaltending and “Mr. Universe” Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz struggled for a good majority of the regular season, and Sergei Bobrovsky who had been relegated to a backup, was inconsistent. Bryz turned it on though towards the end of the season, and the Flyers coasted to a playoff berth where they would face: the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A keystone matchup in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and what would turn into one of the most incredible playoff series’ we’ve ever witnessed. Game 1 started off with the Penguins going up 3-0 before the Flyers came storming back (with some help from a missed offsides call), and won the game 4-3 with a Jakub Voracek overtime winner.

Just as you had finally calmed down from Game 1, Game 2 came along double-fisting Red Bull shouting “LET’S DO THIS SHIT” and punched you in the face. It was an insane back-and-forth game that saw two short-handed goals from the Flyers and dueling hat tricks. One of them by of course, Claude Giroux, and then rookie Sean Couturier. The Flyers would win 8-5 sending the series to Philadelphia, where all hell broke loose.

Game 3 would be by far the most intense game of hockey that I personally, have ever watched. There is so much to get to with this game, but the return flight is not about Game 3, so I’ll just let you watch some of the best highlights before coming back for the end. P.S: Sidney Crosby is such a nerd.

Alright, so with the Flyers up 3-0 and the Penguins looking physically and mentally incapable of beating this team, they would win the next two in convincing fashion. This set up a Game 6 back in Philadelphia where the team needed to get off to a good start, and take care of business. That’s when Claude Giroux ended the series just 32 seconds in.

In one of the greatest shifts in Flyers’ history, the soon-to-be captain leveled Sidney Crosby off the opening faceoff, then on his first shot of the game wired one by Marc-Andre Fleury. They played the rest of that game for some reason, but everyone knew it was over and done with when Giroux scored that goal.

It will go down as one of the best goals in Flyers history from an emerging star at the time, and a franchise great. The team would go on to win 5-1 and eliminate the Penguins in six games. Hartnell, Erik “Gus Bus” Gustafsson, Danny Briere, and Brayden Schenn would all score as well in the victory. But let’s key in on the Gustafsson goal because man Fleury got embarrassed here and it was so glorious at the time.

Although they’d lose the following series to the eventual Eastern Conference champions in the New Jersey Devils, Giroux continued to be stellar. The 24-year-old scored 17 points in 10 total playoff games, and would become captain of the Flyers the following season.

Whether you like to admit it or not, Giroux is by far the most under-appreciated player in Philly sports. It’s amazing how the good will he had following this series has vanished and he’s become a “bad leader” and “not clutch” when he’s been one of the only reasons we’ve seen playoff hockey since Game 5 vs. New Jersey in 2012.

This may have turned into a rant about why Claude Giroux is “actually good,” but it’s clear sometimes we need to be reminded of just how good he has been, and still is. I’d love another 2012 playoffs, or Stadium Series moment tonight from the captain.