PITTSBURGH -- If center Claude Giroux doesn't start producing, the Philadelphia Flyers won't start winning, and their fading Stanley Cup Playoff hopes will disappear.
"It goes hand in hand," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Friday.
The evidence supports Hakstol's words.
Giroux has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in the past 28 games. The Flyers are 9-15-4 in those games. He had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 10 games from Nov. 27-Dec. 14. The Flyers went 10-0.
Philadelphia is 19-12-3 in games when Giroux has at least one point this season; it is 9-13-4 when he gets shut out.
Get the picture?
Giroux does. He knows how valuable he is to the Flyers, how he sets the tone with his work ethic and production. He knows he has to begin producing and that he can't wait, that he has to start by delivering in the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV).
It's a big event, but it's also arguably the biggest game of the season for the Flyers, who are five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 22 games remaining and have a general manager, Ron Hextall, trying to figure out if he should be a seller with the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline approaching (March 1 at 3 p.m. ET). Hextall said Friday he will not be a deadline buyer.
"I've had a lot of chances, but at the end of the day it's gotta go in," Giroux said. "We're done with excuses here. We're here to play some hockey the way we want to play."
Hakstol and Jakub Voracek, Giroux's longtime linemate, said they've seen enough from the captain in the past two weeks to believe he's primed for a breakout performance and a hot streak.
They're ignoring the fact that Giroux has one point, an assist, in the past eight games.
"I think the last two games he played really well," Voracek said.
In what way?
"He's playing with the puck all the time," Voracek said. "It's really important, especially for him. He needs to control the game. He needs to control the pace of the game and he's been doing that."
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Hakstol said he thinks Giroux started trending the right way in the Flyers' 2-1 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 11. Giroux had three shots in 23:04 of ice time.
"I thought he just pushed a little bit harder maybe than he would on a normal stretch here," Hakstol said. "I thought he was a real catalyst for us. We had to win that game 2-1 in overtime so it's not like we had an outburst of offensive production, but I thought he elevated his game and we've seen that on a pretty regular basis since then over the last few games.
"That high level of compete, focus on pushing hard, focus on detail and doing the right things teamwise, it's going to turn in the right direction. A player like 'G,' with his ability with the experience and poise that he has, if he continues to do the right things good things are going to happen."
The scary part is the San Jose game was nearly two weeks ago and the signs of life Hakstol and Voracek have seen in Giroux's game haven't produced tangible results for him or the Flyers. They're 1-3 with eight goals since the win against the Sharks.
And Giroux talked about frustration Friday, which means he's entering or already in the dangerous place where emotions get the best of him.
"Obviously when you have a chance and it hits the post or it's not going in you get a little bit more frustrated than if you were producing," Giroux said. "When you're producing and getting chances you're fine, but when you get a chance [when you're struggling] you want to be able to capitalize on it, so you get frustrated a little quicker than normal [when you don't]."
Giroux admitted to feeling the weight of his slump, which is only natural considering it has coincided with the Flyers' tumbling down the Metropolitan Division standings.
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"Sometimes I can't do what I think I should be doing," Giroux said.
So he tries harder to compensate, which only takes him further down the wrong path.
"He cares about his team," Hextall said. "He cares about his teammates. He cares about the way he plays. That's an innate human trait that he has, which is a strong sign of leadership. But look around, we've got a lot of guys that need to play better and more consistently. We have a few guys whose numbers are not where they should be."
Part of that is because the No. 1 guy isn't putting up the numbers he should. It puts more pressure on the second, third, fourth and fifth guys to make up for him when they may not be capable of doing it consistently.
"Usually we play a lot of minutes and when you eat up 20 minutes a game you have to be on for most of the night for the team to have a chance to win," Voracek said.
The Flyers need Giroux to be on starting Saturday. The stage is big, the game huge, and they need their best player to bust out of his slump. They need it to be the start of a hot streak. They won't climb back into a playoff position if Giroux stays cold for too much longer.
"He's a game-changer," Voracek said.