A Beautiful Mind
Over the last three seasons, Flyers fans have been using that word to describe the play of forward Claude Giroux. The Hearst, Ontario native has established himself as one of the NHL’s brightest stars.
Through three games in the 2011-12 season, Giroux has registered five points, three of which came in Wednesday night’s 5-4 win over the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks.
Following a tumultuous offseason that saw the Flyers make over the core of the roster, a lot of pressure was put on Giroux.
Coming into the season, many debated whether or not Philadelphia would be able to score enough to truly compete with the best of the Eastern Conference. In addition to the goal-scoring questions, some wondered if Giroux could replicate his 76-point season with a much younger cast around him. His role as the team's most visible forward added pressure to his expanding role.
With all of the new responsibility on his back, the young forward has displayed exactly why he's the perfect man to carry the load. For a player who has historically registered more assists than goals, Giroux has jumped out of the gate with three goals and two assists. To put it into perspective, it took Giroux 19 games in 09-10 to score three goals; it took him six games in 10-11; and it only took him three in 11-12.
While his ability to produce early is a good sign, the most comforting dynamic of his goal scoring is the way he’s doing it. All three of Giroux’s goals have been scored down low and in front of the net. His first goal of the season came on a breakaway where he masterfully duped Tim Thomas.
His second goal came from the slot on a one-time pass from behind the net to beat Martin Brodeur. And his third goal came on a hustle play where he was in the right place, at the right time to place a shot delicately above Roberto Luongo’s sprawling glove hand.
All three of the goals were unique but they all exemplified hustle and positioning. Giroux was in the right place to capitalize on a goofy play or a quick pass that allowed him to score a goal. In a game where the slightest bounce can make all the difference, it's crucial that the best players are in the right spots at the most important times.
Giroux has been.
It helps that Giroux has the help of newly acquired line mate Jaromir Jagr, a player who Giroux has developed a unique relationship with.
“He moves the puck quick and it takes two seconds and he is open again,” Giroux said to reporters. “Any time you play with a guy like that it’s going to open up a lot of plays.”
Both of Jagr’s two points this season have come on plays where Giroux also registered a point. Jagr even registered the primary assist on Giroux’s first goal of the season. Of Jagr’s league-leading four preseason goals, Giroux registered an assist on three of them.
While the preseason means little, Philadelphia fans were privy to glimpses of the possible magic between Giroux and Jagr. If they can carry that cohesiveness over to the regular season then Giroux will have no problem replicating his 76-point total from last season. In fact, he may surpass it.
Jagr certainly thinks so.
“With [Giroux] in the center, it’s a lot easier to play. He’s that good. You guys have a good future here,” Jagr told reporters. “Don’t worry about anything. He’s a little genius.”