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Giroux continues playoff, big game excellence

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Giroux continues playoff, big game excellence
Claude Giroux has a penchant for starring in big games and for leading the Flyers after losses to avoid slumps all season in Philadelphia.

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers center Claude Giroux was happy his team emerged from Game 1 of its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 4-3 overtime win, but on a personal level, he wasn't particularly happy with how he played.

He had one shot in 20:37 of ice time and won 11 of 17 faceoffs, but it wasn't enough.

"I know he was mad after the first game for I guess not chipping in offensively," Danny Briere told NHL.com. "Basically, I told him we're a team. It's not just about one guy … I'm sure you'll be there when it matters."

It mattered Saturday in Game 2, and Giroux was there in a huge way in the Flyers' 8-5 victory that gave them a 2-0 series edge heading into Game 3 back in Philadelphia on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN).

In 22:30 of ice time, he had three goals, three assists, a plus-4 rating, a game-high 10 shots on goal and won 15 faceoffs. The six points were the most ever scored by a Flyer in a single playoff game.

"I think I could have been better in Game 1," Giroux said. "I just kind of pushed myself to do better in Game 2. Obviously it was a weird game in Game 2. But to get the job done altogether was fun."

If winning in the playoffs is about having the best players be the best players, then Giroux showed why he's the Flyers' best player.

Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 11 | +/-: 4
"He was phenomenal from start to finish [Friday]," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think that's what we've grown accustomed to here from last year to this year, the regular season and now in the playoffs. He's ready when the puck drops. He played 60 minutes and gave his all. He was talented and resilient -- a tremendous combination."

The game Friday wasn't the first time Giroux has raised his level of play. Like many great players, the postseason always has seemed to bring out the best in Giroux.

As a rookie in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led the Flyers with five points in six games in a first-round loss to the Penguins. The following year, he was second on the team with 10 goals and third with 21 points in 23 games to help Philadelphia advance to the Stanley Cup Final, and last season he had 11 assists and 12 points in 12 games to again lead the team in scoring.

He's averaged 1.05 points per game in 44 playoff games, compared to 0.85 points per game in 285 regular-season games.

"He's got a knack for being there when it matters most," Briere said. "That's not something you can teach. You have it or you don't. There's guys that score a lot when games are out of hand or they don't mean much. He always seems to score the big goals or make the big plays when it matters most."

He certainly did that in Game 2. His shorthanded rush in the first period led to Maxime Talbot's goal to get the Flyers within 2-1, and then he scored twice in the first 11:04 of the second period to pull the Flyers even at 3-3. And with 9:13 left in the third, he started the play that led to Jaromir Jagr's game-winning goal.

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Big plays at big moments have become a hallmark of Giroux's short career. After all-stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded during the offseason, it fell to Giroux to become the team's lynchpin. He was third in the League with 93 points, but just as impressive were his 11 goals and 37 assists in 33 games following a Flyers loss. It's a big reason Philadelphia went 26-6-2 during the regular season in games following a loss, and why they went winless in consecutive games just seven times all season, and three straight only once (Feb. 4-7).

"That's what it's all about, to step up in the right moment," Jakub Voracek said. "I can tell that he's even more dangerous than he was in the regular season. He wants it so bad -- you can tell."

Giroux said he's embraced the increased responsibilities he inherited when Richards and Carter departed. He not only centers the first line, but is on the first power-play and penalty-kill units. And when the team needs a goal or needs a lead defended in the final minute of game, he's the first one over the boards.

"Coaches put a lot of responsibilities [on me]," he said. "I play a lot of minutes and I got to make sure I'm responsible offensively and defensively. … At the same time I want to be the go-to guy, I want to be a guy the coaches trust to put on the ice at the end of every game or at the start of the game. I think anybody that plays hockey wants to be like that. Obviously with that comes a lot of responsibility, but it's something I look forward to."

His work ethic has rubbed off on his teammates.

"He works really, really hard," said Wayne Simmonds. "He leads by example. All the boys can just follow him."

Brayden Schenn said he's been watching Giroux closely all season. Both were first-round draft picks who arrived in the NHL at age 20.

"He came up kind of the same way [as I did] as a 20 year old and got better year by year, now he's a star in the NHL," he said, "and you can learn from a player like that on and off the ice. I hung around him a lot this year and learned a lot from him."

Laviolette said he hopes Schenn isn't the only player watching and learning from Giroux.

"It's hard not to watch him and see what he does on the ice and be inspired by that," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp