VOORHEES, N.J. — Four games into the 2017-17 season, Flyers captain Claude Giroux acknowledged Friday he is still adapting to his move from center to left wing.
“I enjoy both,” Giroux said. “I enjoy playing hockey. It’s definitely a different game on the left side.”
Now centered by Sean Couturier, with Jakub Voracek on the right side, the Giroux line has certainly had its moments. But those chances haven’t necessarily manifested in a flurry of goals for the Flyers.
Giroux, Couturier and Voracek have totaled two goals and five assists in 5-on-5 situations, while the captain himself has one goal and one assist at even strength.
“I’m still getting adjusted here and just trying to stay in the system and be able to play my game, but I feel like our line, we have more to give,” Giroux said. “Five-on-five, we’re generating some good offense, but we can definitely do more.”
While the switch hasn’t sparked an immediate explosion of scoring for the Flyers’ top line, Giroux isn’t clamoring for a change back. As the 29-year-old veteran notes, he still takes plenty of faceoffs — a team-high 61 — and handles a lot of center responsibilities.
It’s a hybrid role, essentially.
“When we go back in our zone, if I’m the first one back, I’ll be playing low, so I do get some shifts playing center,” Giroux said. “It’s not like I miss it.”
One doesn’t have to watch very hard to see the chemistry developing between Giroux and his linemates. It may be only a matter of time before the experiment pays off and the unit starts to find the back of the net with regularity.
A successful trip in more ways than one
After a four-game road trip to kick off the season, the Flyers are looking forward to finally opening the Wells Fargo Center against the Capitals on Saturday night. However, as several players noted, getting their annual California tour out of the way early has its advantages, too.
“To start off the year in the middle of a long road trip is not the worst thing in the world,” Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “It’s probably tougher later in the season to go out there and win games like that.”
The Flyers took two of three off the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, sometimes referred to as the “Triangle of Death” when played in succession. They followed that up with a hard-fought regulation loss in Nashville at the hands of the Predators — a missed opportunity, for sure, although a 2-2 start on the road is nothing to complain about.
It was a valuable four points for the Flyers, although there was more to the trip than that. It also served as a bonding experience for a team that has four rookies and several new faces.
“Having so many young guys and new faces in the locker room, that helped build team chemistry and to get know the guys a little better,” rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim said.
In many ways, it was a more successful trip than the standings might let on. At the same time, while there were numerous positives to take away from the Flyers’ start, there’s no question they could also use a little home cooking.
“We’re happy with the way we’re playing,” Giroux said. “Coming home is definitely a boost.”
Ovechkin’s torrid start
While the Flyers are happy to be home, they won’t exactly be easing into their Wells Fargo Center slate. With a 2-1-1 record, the Capitals are off to a good start as well, with the hottest player in the NHL leading the way.
Alexander Ovechkin already has eight goals in Washington’s first four games, including three in the opener, followed by four in the encore. Lighting the lamp is nothing new for Ovechkin — he’s led the league in goals six times in his career — but even by his standards, his early-season performance has been downright scary.
“He’s that kind of player that when he gets hot, he gets hot, and right now it looks like everything he touches goes in,” Giroux said. “That’s why he’s been such a dominant player all his career. When he’s got a chance to score, he puts it in.”
Ovechkin is coming off something of a down season in 2016-17, finishing with 33 goals — his fewest in an 82-game campaign since the 2010-11 season. Looks like it’s safe to say he’s snapped out of it.
There’s no secret formula for stopping Ovechkin, either. The best way to keep to him from scoring is to simply avoid giving him anything easy.
“Don’t turn pucks over,” Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said. “That’s when they hurt you. They have a lot of offensive firepower on that team.”
The Capitals are also the Flyers’ first Metropolitan Division opponent of the season, and their last for awhile. They don’t face another division opponent until they visit the Islanders on Nov. 22, a whole 16 games later.
“I think any time we play a team that’s in our division, it’s a pretty intense game,” Giroux said. “They’re fun to play, especially a home opener.
“They’ll be coming in hot, so we have to be ready.”