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Living up to his title

by Brian Smith | PhiladelphiaFlyers.com / Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux was, to put it mildly (and family-friendly), extremely unhappy with himself after the first period of Wednesday’s game in Boston. A turnover on his part had led to one Boston goal; his high-sticking penalty later in the period provided a power play on which the Bruins also scored. Giroux went as far as calling it one of the worst professional periods he’s ever played. Then in the second period, the Flyers seemed flat while falling behind 4-2.

Even Danny Briere, watching at home, was concerned.

“That second period, it’s like they had nothing,” said Briere, who was speaking with the media Friday in advance of his retirement night on Tuesday. “No jump, no energy, second on pucks anywhere. And I thought ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a long night.’”

But two periods later, the Flyers turned the game around, and Giroux led the way. His goal in the third period cut the Flyers’ two-goal deficit in half, and then his sixth career overtime game-winning goal finished off the comeback.

What changed?

“I think that third period we came as a team and started helping each other,” he said. “When we started doing our own job and not trying to make other people’s jobs, I think that’s when we started to be successful.”

It was a deflection of credit by Giroux, which is not surprising. It was certainly a team effort and he was quick to credit his teammates. But in the nature of bouncing back from a tough first period, it was a performance that personified the Flyers captain and his approach to his job.

“Leadership is about accountability, when it really comes down to it, and I think we all know inside this locker room how accountable [Claude] is,” said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol. “A couple things didn’t go right early in that hockey game. I thought he showed good mental toughness. He showed a lot of will to go out and turn things around. I think it was him and a lot of other guys in the locker room that went out and did that. Anybody in this room would tell you they wouldn’t expect anything different.”

Giroux’s performance was the type of thing that can pull an already tight-knit team even closer together. And the comeback it anchored – from down two goals on the second game of a back-to-back set, in a building where the Flyers hadn’t won in four years – perhaps shows that this group has matured beyond what most expected. When Jake Voracek said in the preseason that while the Flyers’ roster wasn’t that different, everyone was a year older and a year more experienced, this is the kind of thing he was talking about. In past years, a younger Flyers team might have not had the ability to recover from the first two periods of that game, but now, their resiliency level appears to be notably higher.

“If you make a mistake, it happens,” Voracek said. “It’s a hockey game. Things are going to happen. That’s why he’s the kind of player he is, because he can move on.”

Said Michael Raffl: “That’s leading by example. Everybody has bad games where things are not going your way, and that’s how to handle it; how to deal with it. That sends a message to all of us. I think the biggest thing is in the locker room before he goes out there, he’s really jacked up and he gives everyone energy. I really enjoy playing with him.”

The leadership of Giroux aside, Hakstol is seeing that kind of attitude in all of his players.

“You find a way, you stick with it, scratch and claw a little bit,” Hakstol said. “Sometimes when you do that, and you get a bounce, in effect you can turn the game. So no matter what the situation is, or who we’re playing against, you have a real strong mentality and you go out and get the job done.”

And Briere, who’s been involved in a comeback or two against Boston in his career (see Conference Semifinals, 2010), it’s an indicator early on in the season that the Flyers might be a team that can’t be counted out on any night.

“This is a great sign, to see a team like that come back after playing so poorly in the second period,” he said. “To come back with the energy and find ways to stay in the game and claw their way back in, and a dramatic finish in overtime –that’s the sign of a good, mature team, usually.”

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