“He had a real skinny frame and his English wasn’t very good,” Hartnell said. “But he had an infectious personality and when he came on to the ice, he was doing all of these crazy puck drills. I was like, ‘This kid’s going to be a good player.’ As the years passed and his confidence grew he earned respect from everyone around him and he took that and ran with it, and that’s been pretty cool.”
It’s what has earned Giroux the captaincy of the Flyers. Aside from being the most skilled player on the team, aside from leading the team in scoring, it’s that constant desire to be the best at his craft that drives Giroux and in turn, inspires his teammates to play well.
“With experience you learn how to deal with adversity,” said Giroux. “You try not to make that too big a thing and just go out there and play. When you are younger you make everything so huge and the pressure builds. But as you get older you realize that each day is just another day. It’s just another game or just another practice and each day is a new chance to do something good.”
For two months now, Giroux has been doing a lot of good. How much?
Well, in that time (since Dec. 8), Giroux leads the NHL in scoring.
That’s right. His 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in the past 30 games are more than any other player. It’s more than Phil Kessel of Toronto (15-21-36) or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (13-23-36). It’s more than injured Olympian John Tavares of the New York Islanders (12-22-34) or his red hot line mate Kyle Okposo (16-17-33). It’s even more than Chicago’s Patrick Sharp (16-15-31), Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf (13-18-31) and Edmonton’s Taylor Hall (9-22-31).
Heck, even Alex Ovechkin of Washington, who leads the NHL in scoring with a whopping 40 goals at this juncture hasn’t been as hot as Giroux (Ovechkin is 18-11-29 in the same span).
Oh, and Marty St. Louis? You know, the forward from Tampa Bay who was picked ahead of Giroux for the Canadian Olympic team, his numbers (13-16-29) aren’t as good either.
All of those names round out the top 10 in the NHL for the past two months, and Giroux is right at the top.
Not too shabby after going 15 games without a goal to start the season, eh?
And that’s the thing. Giroux could have let a slow start eat away at him. He could have let his own personal struggles (along with those of his teammates) fester in the locker room and continue to spiral downward.
But he didn’t. He remained composed and driven and was able to finally break out with a goal against Edmonton on Nov. 9 and hasn’t looked back.
“In those 15 games, the one thing I noticed – and I talked to him about it – was that his work ethic was still there,” coach Craig Berube said. “He was still working really hard. I thought he was skating and worked his way out of it. That’s what you got to do. It happens to a lot of players. [Evgeni] Malkin [in Pittsburgh] went 17 games without scoring this year.
“What really affected him more than anything was wearing the ‘C’ on his jersey. He takes that to heart. He’s trying to lead his team and win games. He kept saying to me, ‘I just want to win. I just want to win games.’ He wasn’t worried about himself so much, even though we all knew he was, but he was showing he was worried about the team.
And the team has followed, as the Flyers have gone 17-10-3 in those 30 games to climb back into a playoff spot with 23 games to go, resuming a week from today following this Olympic hiatus.
|Scott Hartnell has watched Claude Giroux grow up into a highly-respected captain who is the straw in the Flyers drink. |
“It was a tough start for everyone, not just on the ice but psychologically as well,” Hartnell said. “But once he gets going it seems everyone else on this team just follows suit and that’s what you want in a leader. I’ve never seen a guy who is that competitive and works so hard on the ice and upstairs in the gym. You want to be around that guy. Everyone likes him and respects him whichis why we are all so willing to go to war with him.
“You can talk about his points and how he’s leading the league the last two months or whatever, but he’s going to get his points no matter what,” Hartnell said. “It’s him jump starting the rest of us that is the important thing and he’s able to do that.”
NOTES: The Flyers played a bit of 3-on-3 hockey at practice today, but while that was going on at one end of the ice, Nick Grossmann was taking extra skating drills at the other end of the ice with assistant coach Ian Laperriere. “Everyone is doing what they have to do after a break like this,” Grossmann said. “You have to get your body back into gear and you do whatever you have to do to be stronger. Berube said the break should do Grossmann well, admitting that he was banged up heading into the break and still isn’t 100 percent healthy… Hal Gill is still chiding the rest of the locker room about the Olympics. With only Adam Hall as his American running mate, Gill is talking a lot of smack, especially to the Canadians in the dressing room. “Canada lives and dies with this tournament,” Gill said. “So, I don’t know what is more fun, rooting for the Americans to win or rooting for Canada to lose. Probably a little bit of both.” When asked what the conversation has been like in the dressing room, Hartnell said Gill is bordering on unbearable. “It’s like there’s five or six guys in one person,” he said of Gill…. Berube is starting practice at 10:15 a.m. Friday to give everyone enough time to clean up and watch the game together in Voorhees.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers