-- Claude Giroux
is a calm, cool and collected Philadelphia Flyer these days.
How poised? Well, how does scoring the shootout goal that clinched a playoff spot in the final game of the regular season sound? That was Giroux against the New York Rangers
' Henrik Lundqvist
Now, with his team short three key important players -- Jeff Carter
, Simon Gagne
and Ian Laperriere
-- Giroux's averaging almost two minutes more of ice time per game in the playoffs. During the regular season, Giroux averaged 16:36 each game. That pales to the 23 minutes he's averaged in each of the opening two games against the Boston Bruins
in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
He might only be in his second full season in the League, but his rapid ascent actually began several years ago.
After being passed over in the 2005 Ontario Hockey League draft, Giroux accepted a tryout with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the 2005-06 season. He excelled, scoring 39 goals, 103 points and a plus-30 rating in 69 games his first season, earning Rookie of the Month twice and All-Rookie Team honors.
The Flyers took notice, too, and drafted the 5-foot-11, 172-pound Hearst, Ont., native with the 22nd selection in the 2006 Entry Draft. The following season he had 112 points, including 20 power-play goals, 10 game-winners and a 26.1 shooting percentage, and was called up by the Flyers for two games in 2007-08 before returning to Gatineau for a third season. In that final season, he had 38 goals, 106 points and a plus-40 rating in 55 games, and was named to the QMJHL All-Star Team and was a Canadian Major Junior First Team All-Star. He also represented Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships, totaling 2 goals and 6 points in seven games.
"I think (Gatineau) did prepare me for the NHL, especially my last year (2007-08) because I played almost 30-minutes a game and was used in every situation," Giroux told NHL.com. "I was playing the power play and on the penalty kill and was playing against the top line on the other team. I knew I had to learn how to play defensively, and right now I'm trying to work on that part of my game."
Boy is he ever. Giroux is averaging 18:12 of ice time per game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including 2:07 while shorthanded and 4:12 on the power-play. On top of that, he's tied with Mike Richards
and Danny Briere
for the team lead with 4 goals through seven postseason games.
He seems to be a perfect fit with whoever is by his side on whichever line on which he plays. Former coach John Stevens
had Giroux on the team's top line when Gagne was sidelined by injury last season, and current coach Peter Laviolette
has him there again with Gagne nursing a foot injury this spring. Not only has he worked tremendously well with Richards and Daniel Carcillo
, as was the case in Game 1, but he can be equally effective alongside Briere and Darroll Powe
, which took effect in Game 2.
His increase in ice time is a direct result of injuries to Carter (broken right foot), Gagne (broken right toe) and Laperriere (brain contusion).
"I played top line a couple of games this year and played with them the last game, too, when Gags (Gagne) got hurt," Giroux said. "There's an adjustment to playing wing or center; it changes, for sure. But I just have to keep it simple, work hard and do the little things."
He registered 9 goals and 27 points in 42 regular-season games as a rookie in 2008-09, but his coming-out party came in the playoffs when he tied for the team lead with 5 points during the club's six-game series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the opening round.
"Anytime you play more games, you get more comfortable," Giroux said. "It's normal, and to have that experience from last year is good for me. Hopefully I can help the team win a couple of games here in this series."
Does he feel the opposition will be paying closer attention to him now that he's becoming more of an offensive catalyst in the postseason?
"I don't try to think about that," he said. "I just control things I can and I can't control that so I just have to make sure I'm ready for the game."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com