On day of Super Bowl party, Claude Giroux shows his Philly mettle

On day of Super Bowl party, Claude Giroux shows his Philly mettle


On a sunny but chilly day in February, Philadelphia went gaga over its beloved Eagles winning their first-ever Super Bowl title.

Not long after the parade died down, Claude Giroux hit the Wells Fargo Center ice, a common sight for the past 10 years.

Motivated and rejuvenated, Giroux then showed why he's still a fixture in this city, a face that goes up among the biggest when it comes to the Philly sports scene.

The 30-year-old captain was a must-see star Thursday night, spinning together a three-point game with a goal and two beautiful assists to push the Flyers past the Montreal Canadiens, 5-3 (see observations).

Carey Price, a six-time All-Star and 2014-15 Vezina Trophy winner, saw a force. When the Canadiens' goalie was asked for the difference in Thursday's game, he didn't have to wax poetic.

"Claude Giroux," Price said simply. "He played a pretty good game tonight. I think he was the difference-maker.

"He's definitely got great vision. He's pretty shifty out there. He always seems to be in a good position to make a play to multiple players."

Giroux made play after play, especially when the Flyers needed it.

First, he helped them take a 1-0 lead early in the second period when he set up Travis Konecny with a terrific lead pass through two Canadiens. Later in the stanza, he erased a shorthanded goal off a Jakub Voracek turnover by regaining the advantage at 2-1 with a tally of his own. And then, to put the Flyers ahead once more — and for good — Giroux found Voracek with a cross-ice feed to claim a 3-2 third-period edge en route to a second straight victory (see highlights).

Giroux, never exactly satisfied with himself, was not pleased with his play last time out, despite a 2-1 overtime win serving as the final result Tuesday.

Did this performance meet his personal standards?

"A little bit better," he said. "When you help the team win, that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to do something to help the team and I think everybody did a good job tonight."

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol witnessed what he's been seeing a lot of on Giroux's redemption tour.

"It's not always about points, but G played well tonight and he made plays tonight. I think that's what he was probably most hard on himself in regards to after the game in Carolina," Hakstol said. "No question tonight, he went out and made plays and was a difference-maker for our team. That's what you want to see. He's pretty hard on himself, maybe overly so. But he felt he could play better and he went out and did that tonight."

Giroux has been substantially better from 2016-17 when he posted a career low in goals (14) for a full season and a third straight drop-off in points (58). In 54 games this season, he already has more goals (16), assists (45) and points (61) than he did last year over 82 games.

"Everybody knows in that room that he wears his heart on his sleeve," Hakstol said. "He expects a lot out of the people around him, but he puts himself at the head of the line. After a good win for our team, he had a lot of praise for his teammates and felt like he needed to be a little bit better. That's something that's pretty well-respected inside of the locker room."

Much of that has to do with being held accountable, not just by himself.

"When it's not going your way, when you're not playing the way you want to, you've got to challenge yourself," Giroux said. "Coaches do a good job and even teammates — I've got Jake and Wayne (Simmonds) yelling at me a couple times and that kind of gets you going a little bit."

Giroux's push has the Flyers in good standing for more postseason drive in Philadelphia. The Flyers sit three points ahead in the Eastern Conference's first wild-card spot and just one point behind the New Jersey Devils for third place in the busy Metropolitan Division.

With 28 games to go, No. 28 must be the guy for the Flyers — and Thursday was further proof he still very much is.

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

One Czech is out, and another has checked in.

Petr Mrazek has endured a rather eventful past 24 hours. Following news of the trade to the Flyers, Mrazek didn’t go to bed until 2 a.m. and was awake at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Philadelphia that had him at the Wells Fargo Center in time for the Flyers' morning skate.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Mrazek said Tuesday. “I got a call at 9:30 from (Red Wings GM) Ken Holland and then Ron Hextall. Yeah, I’m excited. A couple of months ago I had a good conversation with Ken Holland about it and he said if he had a good opportunity to do it, he was going to try and move me. I was really happy.”

With Michal Neuvirth now expected to miss the next four to six weeks with a lower-body injury, and Brian Elliott scheduled to be out until late March recovering from core muscle surgery, Mrazek will now be the Flyers' go-to guy in net. 

“Petr’s a proven guy,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That goes without saying. We’ve said all along we have confidence in Alex (Lyon) and he’s starting tonight, but Hexy alluded to it, going out and getting an established veteran NHL goaltender and that’s what Petr is.”

Mrazek’s game has definitely reached another level since the calendar flipped to 2018. The 26-year-old netminder has a 5-3-2 record to go along with a 2.29 GAA and a .925 save percentage since Jan. 1. 

“I changed a couple of things during the summer,” Mrazek said. “I didn’t play much the first half of the season and it was tough for me to find my game playing once in two weeks or once in three weeks. It was tough but I worked hard during that stretch on the ice to try and improve my game, and I think over the past few months it was going in the right direction.”

Mrazek will also find comfort in a clubhouse with three Czech teammates: forward Jakub Voracek, defenseman Radko Gudas and Neuvirth. They’ve played together at the IIHF World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey.

“I won’t be surprised if we signed Jags after the Olympics,” Voracek said jokingly regarding Jaromir Jagr. “Obviously, something needs to be done regarding Neuvy and Elliott. Petr’s a great goalie and I think we’re having a great season this year. Obviously, he’s very competitive. As long as we find a way to win with him in the net, that’s all that matters.”  

“They’re different style goalies for sure,” Gudas said of the differences between Mrazek and Neuvirth. “He’s a great goaltender who challenges a lot. That’s a good thing for us to have someone who cares as much as he does. I think our goalies were doing a really good job of keeping our defense intact and keeping them honest, and I think Petr is going to do the same thing, especially our young D corps, and help them out.” 

In Bloom
Many expected Oskar Lindblom to make the Flyers out of training camp. Few expected the call-up to come during the heat of a playoff race. 

Regardless, the 21-year-old Swede will make his NHL debut Tuesday against the Canadiens and should see an extended look into March following an upper-body injury to Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers' power forward is expected to miss the next two to three weeks of action.

“I’ve grown as a person and as a player,” Lindblom said. “I just felt I had to go down there (Lehigh Valley) and just do my thing and get better every day.”

“It’s so valuable going into the American League and have the opportunity to gain that experience, especially for Oskar being his first year in the smaller NHL rink,” Hakstol said. “He’s grown as a player. I think his confidence has always been good.”

Certainly, confidence won’t be lacking as Lindblom was lighting it up with the Phantoms, scoring a goal in three straight games, along with another scoring streak that included five goals in a six-game span.  

“I don’t know why I’ve been that way this season,” Lindblom said. “But it’s good when it comes and I need to keep riding on that wave a little bit.”

“He’s got a great shot, great hockey sense,” Claude Giroux said. “He’s been playing some great hockey with the Phantoms, and he’s a great guy in the locker room, too, so I’m pretty excited to see him on the ice since I haven’t seen him in awhile.”

Lindblom will be on the Flyers' third line along with center Scott Laughton and winger Michael Raffl.

“He’s a smart player, a really heady player,” Laughton said. “I’m excited to play with him. I haven’t talked to him too much. I’m sure we’ll talk more before the game with what me and Raffl like to do and we’ll go out there and continue to push forward and look for him in the slot where he likes to score goals.”

Projected lines and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

Jakub Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Jordan Weal

Oskar Lindblom-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere

Andrew MacDonald-Robert Hagg

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Alex Lyon

Petr Mrazek

2 more key Flyers out with injuries

2 more key Flyers out with injuries

There's more bad news on the injury front for the Flyers.

Winger Wayne Simmonds (upper-body injury) will miss two to three weeks and goalie Michal Neuvirth (lower-body injury) will be out the next four to five weeks.

With Monday's news that the Flyers had recalled surging forward prospect Oskar Lindblom (see story), a corresponding move seemed imminent. With Simmonds out, Jordan Weal took his place on Nolan Patrick's line, which had been clicking lately, during Tuesday's morning skate. It appears Lindblom will see his first NHL action on Scott Laughton's line along with Michael Raffl.

With Brian Elliott likely out for the rest of the regular season and Neuvirth's status, the Flyers' trade for goalie Petr Mrazek makes obvious sense (see story). Mrazek was on the ice for morning skate and will be available tonight vs. the Canadiens (7 p.m./NBCSP), according to GM Ron Hextall, who was a guest on 97.5 The Fanatic's midday show.