Time to start treating Giroux like all-time Flyer he is

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Time to start treating Giroux like all-time Flyer he is

Claude Giroux was told he was too old. You know the rest.

Monday night, it was a scene, and a script, all too familiar.

The scene saw Giroux scoring his 205th career goal, but the script had heartbreak in the ending.

The Flyers lost their sixth game in their last seven. This time, 3-2 to Vegas. Last week, playoffs seemed almost certain. Now? Still probable but who knows.

Despite the losses, the Flyers remain in third place of the Metropolitan Division but are just two points ahead of Columbus.

One week, the Flyers are up and the next, they’re down. It’s hard to nail down exactly who they are, but through it all, there’s been one constant and it’s flown under the radar.

Giroux, who turned 30 in January, is having a career year and not only deserves to be in the Hart Trophy conversation but should also be a serious contender for the league’s MVP award.

After potting his 25th goal, Giroux is three markers shy of tying his career high.

With 12 games left, he’s on pace to set new career bests in goals, assists and points. He secured his 82nd point Monday, meaning at the worst, he’ll finish at a point per game. Considering his recent pace, it’s unfathomable to believe that’s possible.

Giroux’s goal extended his point streak to seven games and he has points in 15 of his last 17. It was also his second straight game with a goal. Since Feb. 8, Giroux’s 24 points are second most in the NHL behind Evgeni Malkin’s 25.

Among the league leaders, Giroux’s 82 points are fourth most. His 57 assists are third most, behind Jakub Voracek (59), and Blake Wheeler and Johnny Gaudreau (58).

There are a handful of players worthy of the Hart discussion. There’s Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, Malkin and even Taylor Hall. Cases can be made for all.

But it’s time to lump Giroux into that debate.

It’s also time to appreciate what Giroux’s doing this season, and what he’s done as a Flyer. It’s way overdue, and it’s time for the fans and media to give him the respect he deserves.

Whenever the Flyers needed a big goal this season, Giroux has been there. There are a lot of factors; the move to wing, putting him with Sean Couturier, health.

That diminishes what Giroux’s accomplishing.

Last season was the low point — 14 goals, 58 points — and it came after his numbers steadily declined in each season after his eight-year, $66.2 million extension in July 2013.

Then, there were the injuries. Factor in his age and we saw the calls to trade him.

The Flyers, obviously, didn't and Giroux has bounced back better than ever. Giroux is three points from passing Eric Lindros (659) on the team's all-time point list.

When it’s all said and done, Giroux will go into the record books as one of the best Flyers ever.

Perhaps it’s time for us to start treating him like one.

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers


Who can I trust?

That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”

The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.

Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.

“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”

“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”

The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.  

“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”

And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit. 

When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.

“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”

And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.

Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck.