One of the most stimulating goals in Flyers history…that's how Claude Giroux 's overtime goal on Wednesday night will be remembered.
Whether or not the Flyers go on to defeat Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals, Giroux's goal has its place with Rick MacLeish's game winner in the Flyers Stanley Cup-clincher over Boston in 1974, and with Bobby Clarke's overtime goal in Game 2 of the '74 Boston series. Move over, Ricky and Clarkie, and welcome Claude.
Giroux's goal, which gave the Flyers a 4-3 victory over Chicago in Game 3 of the Finals, showed why he is such an outstanding, smart young hockey player. After winning a faceoff, Giroux skated toward the net, keeping his stick on the ice, and watching the play develop. He was ready to deflect Matt Carle's pass between the pads of Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi.
While Giroux was taking his pregame nap, he said a friend texted him, saying he thought Giroux would score the overtime winner in Game 3. "I texted him back and said `You're crazy,''' a smiling Giroux said.
Prior to the game, Peter Laviolette suggested that Giroux loosen up and relax.
|Claude Giroux eyes his deflection trickling behind Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi for the overtime game-winning goal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 2, 2010. (Jack Cassidy/Flyers Photos) |
"Anytime we have a bad game, he finds a way to get us going again," Giroux said of his head coach. "He always finds a way to motivate us. I think our whole team, we just believe in our inner self."
Earlier in these riveting playoffs, Giroux caught everyone's attention by scoring two goals in the clincher over the New Jersey Devils (Flyers-Devils opening series: seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?)
With a goal and two assists in Game 3, Giroux now has an impressive 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) in the playoffs. He's right up there with Danny Briere (24 points on 11 goals, 13 assists) and Mike Richards (22 points, 6 goals, 16 assists). Last year, Briere told me he thinks Giroux will be a superstar in the NHL. Briere is looking as prescient at Giroux's friend who predicted the overtime game-winner.
Game 3 proved how evenly matched the Flyers and Blackhawks are. The Flyers are skating and hitting with the Blackhawks. The Flyers also are displaying similar offensive depth to Chicago's.
Each game has been decided by just one goal. In Game 3 the Flyers had two one-goal leads; Chicago led once by one goal. Had the Flyers lost after leading twice, it would've been crushing. Now, the Blackhawks realize they have their hands full with the Flyers.
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Explaining the Flyers' resiliency, defenseman Chris Pronger said, "We have had an awful lot of adversity this year. We have had to learn on the fly. We haven't questioned ourselves or questioned exactly what we're trying to do. We've struggled at times (but we've) been able to turn the corner and figure it out."
One major plus for the Flyers is the Briere-Scott Hartnell-Ville Leino line. With his puck control Briere appears to have a magnet on his stick. Hartnell has bounced back from a disappointing regular season with five goals and eight assists in the playoffs.
Leino, acquired from Detroit in a who's-that? mid-season trade, has tied Brian Propp's 1980 Flyers rookie record for most points in the playoffs (15). There were times during Game 3 where the creative Leino maneuvered around the ice with the puck as if he dared the Blackhawks to challenge him.
"Ville and Danny are going a great job of controlling the puck," Pronger said, "and Hartsy is doing a great job of getting in the corners, controlling the puck and being physical."
Pronger, a strong Conn Smythe Trophy candidate as the Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP, is the top scoring defenseman with 17 points on four goals and 13 assists.
Chicago is a dangerous team, but it fumbled a line change on Giroux's overtime goal. Sometimes, such mistakes linger in the minds of players. The Game 3 loss ended the Blackhawks remarkable record-tying playoff road-winning streak at seven.
- Last night's victory was the first Flyers win in a Stanley Cup final game in (gulp!) 23 years. J.J. Daigneault scored against Edmonton at the Spectrum in 1987 to send the series back to Edmonton for Game 7.
- The pregame messages on the Wachovia Center's ArenaVision screen did an effective job of psyching up the orange-wearing fans. When the fans are attired in bright orange shirts the arena looks like a giant pumpkin patch.
- Nice touch, with the late great Gene Hart narrating the final moments of the Flyers 1974 Cup clinching over Boston on ArenaVision. Following the film clip, '74 beaming Flyers stars Bernie Parent, Rick MacLeish, Gary Dornhoefer and Bob Kelly were shown live in an arena suite.
Please note that the views expressed in this column are not necessarily the views expressed by the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club.
Bill Fleischman is a veteran Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter. He was the Flyers' beat reporter for the Daily News in the 1970s, and continued to cover games in later years. A former president of the Professional Hockey Writers and the Philadelphia Sports Writers Associations, Fleischman is co-author of "Bernie, Bernie," the autobiography of Bernie Parent. Fleischman also is co-author of "The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide." Since 1982, he has been an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware journalism program.
He is a graduate of Germantown High School and Gettysburg College.