First Goal Aside, Claude Giroux Still Struggling
A huge weight was lifted off the shoulders of Claude Giroux Saturday afternoon.
In the third period of a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers, Giroux took a puck off a turnover and scored, giving the Flyers a 3-1 lead. It was Giroux's first goal in 16 games of the season, ending a 21-game drought that spanned back to last season.
After the game, Giroux described the the moment as a "relief."
The drought was a shock for Giroux, who is considered one of the game's best players. After consecutive seasons of averaging at least a point per game, Giroux established himself as one of the best players in the NHL, but his start to the 2013-14 season had fans thinking otherwise.
A stellar Stanley Cup playoff performance in 2011 was the coming out party for Giroux. He continued his success in the 2011-12 regular season where he tallied 28 goals and 65 assists, good for 93 points and placing him third overall behind only Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. In a lockout shortened 2012-13 season, Giroux was able to tally 13 goals and 35 assists, good for 48 points overall.
In the 16 games Giroux has played so far this season, he has only eight points, seven of which coming by assist. He is projected to finish with his lowest point total since his rookie season in 2008.
Much has been made of Giroux’s early season struggles. Fans of opposing teams poked fun at the Flyers’ captain, bringing up the fact that Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith had more goals.
Some Flyers fans have claimed that Giroux has a careless attitude on the ice and is playing uninspired hockey.
Another theory has been floated around that Giroux’s surgically repaired wrists may be bothering him and affecting his shot, but that has only been speculation up to this point.
No matter the reason, one thing is obvious and it’s that Giroux looks like a completely different player on the ice right now.
It isn’t Giroux’s entire play that is struggling either.
In Thursday's game against New Jersey, he went 11-for-16 in the faceoff dot (69 percent) and is sporting a 51 percent success rate overall, only one percentage point off his career average of 52.
Even though he only has seven assists, Giroux actually has done a good job of finding the open man on the ice. He would certainly have more if it weren’t for the shooters hitting the post on numerous occasions.
Giroux’s defensive play has been one to worry about this season alongside his scoring drought. This was most evident on Tuesday during the final minute of play against Carolina where he was caught out of position and allowed Jordan Staal to tie the game and send it to overtime.
So the main question remains: Is this just a stroke of bad luck for the captain or is something wrong with Claude Giroux?
It’s hard to say for sure, but it seems the stroke of luck may be swinging in Giroux’s favor. He was finally able to score a goal on Saturday afternoon against the Oilers, his first since April 15.
In fact, Saturday’s game was one of best the captain has played all season.
Except for a forced turnover that led to Edmonton’s first goal in the second period, Giroux was one of the best players on the ice. He was skating well, finding good scoring opportunities, and feeding the puck to his teammates with ease.
There’s hope that this will spark the beginning of a great season for Giroux, albeit a few weeks late. If anything, this is sure to be a confidence boost and could be exactly what he needed to shake off the demons.
Only time will tell if that is the case, but Giroux is definitely breathing a sigh of relief this morning. As the Flyers look to pick up their play as a whole, Giroux will have to continue to be an integral part of the offense in order for this to happen.