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Why the Flyers will win the Stanley Cup

by Adam Kimelman

When Claude Giroux finished practice Oct. 21, the standings showed his Philadelphia Flyers were 1-7-0.

Their two points were the fewest in the NHL, they already had changed coaches, and Giroux, two seasons removed from being the League's third-leading scorer, had zero goals, three assists and a minus-5 rating.

Most already had written the Flyers off for a second straight postseason on the sidelines, but all Giroux had to do was glance at a calendar.

"We know there's a lot of hockey left to play here," Giroux said at the time. "We're not far at all. … We've never thought that we're not going to make the playoffs.

"We'll take it here game-by-game and we will make the playoffs."

Giroux was proven right April 8 when Philadelphia beat the Florida Panthers 5-2 to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But why stop there with the predictions? Giroux's next proclamation should be the Flyers will win the Stanley Cup. Because the way they've been playing since their terrible start, that's just what will happen.

And when they hoist the Cup, it will be because Giroux delivered it.

The Philadelphia captain has emerged from his scoring doldrums to move into the top 10 in League scoring and earn consideration for the Hart Trophy. Giroux finally scored his first goal Nov. 9 and hasn't stopped since.

But it's more than Giroux's offense that carries the Flyers. He willingly backchecks, runs the top power-play unit, sees significant time on the penalty kill and takes every big faceoff.

"What impressed me this year is how hard he works defensively," said Vincent Lecavalier, in his first season as Giroux's teammate. "He backchecks [and] a lot of goal-scorers in the League … don't necessarily do that. He plays a complete game.

"You look at your leaders to lead on the ice and he's been doing that. When you see him do it … you can say whatever you want in the room, but when you go out there and he does it, I think guys get that extra step there. Guys follow him."

The contagious work ethic has been a big part of the Flyers' revival, along with improved play in goal.

Goaltender Steve Mason has started to resemble the player who dazzled as a rookie with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008-09, winning the Calder Trophy and backstopping the Blue Jackets into the postseason. As good as Mason was then, the team in front of him today is better than that Columbus club.

With Giroux leading a deep, talented group of forwards -- any team that can put a 400-goal scorer in Lecavalier on its fourth line has ridiculous offensive depth -- and Mason backstopping a solid, steady defense corps, the Flyers can make plans for the first Stanley Cup parade in Philadelphia since the Bullies partied with the Cup down Broad Street in 1975.

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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