Flyers

Claude Giroux responds to Jeremy Roenick's offseason criticism

Claude Giroux responds to Jeremy Roenick's offseason criticism

VOORHEES, N.J. — Former Flyer Jeremy Roenick provided some interesting insight into the psychology of Claude Giroux this summer.

On CSN's July 14 edition of Philly Sports Talk, Roenick said, "The reason why Claude Giroux doesn't get success is [because] he lets everything get into his mind and he looks for other things to blame it on.”

What those “other things” are Roenick didn’t elaborate, but Giroux has been resilient in his refusal to use injuries as an excuse. Roenick’s assessment came back in July at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championships in Lake Tahoe, and on Wednesday, Giroux agreed completely that he experiences this mental overload.

“Yeah, I did [agree],” Giroux said, “and I don’t think there was anything negative about that. It was just about me proving who I am. He’s been in that position before and he knows how it feels. He said what I think.

"I’m actually close with Jeremy. Jeremy’s a guy that when he played, he had a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to prove every game that he was better than everybody else. It’s about having that mentality.”

A mentality no one questioned during Giroux’s ascension as one of the best players in the world. A talent that has earned him four All-Star Game appearances and helped him finish top five in voting for the Hart Trophy award as the league's MVP in 2011-12.

Since putting up 28 goals and 86 points in 2013-14, Giroux has seen his offensive production decline in each of the past three years, as he finished with just 14 goals and 58 points this past season.

Roenick referred to Giroux’s 2016-17 season as “a bad-luck situation,” one that can be remedied if he blocks out distractions.

“Put it back together,” Roenick said in July. “Show everybody why you're one of the best competitors in the game and get back up into that top-scoring aspect. And don't worry about slumps and don't worry about what people think of you, just be Claude Giroux. And if he does that, this team is going to prosper."

When I spoke to Giroux on Wednesday for the first time regarding his offseason and Roenick’s comments, I could sense some tension, which led to this awkward exchange …

Me: Do you look at this season as proving some of the doubters and critics wrong that your game is in decline?

Giroux: “Yeah, I read your stuff, so it's kind of motivation.” 

My only mention of Giroux this summer was part of an “End-to-End” column in which the CSNPhilly staff takes a topic and breaks it down. 

Me: “What did I say exactly?” 

Giroux: “Not positive, that’s for sure. But that’s how the business is and for me, it's to prove what kind of player I am and what I can do. The first thing I look at is that our team is looking very good right now. When the team goes well, individually, it’s a lot easier. You can see the mentality of guys coming to camp right now. It’s a different feel right now. I think guys just want more.”

Giroux’s response was a considerably different tone from the last time the media spoke with the captain, which came during the Flyers' cleanout day in April.

"I'm probably the toughest person to judge myself,” Giroux said then. "I'm really hard on myself. What you guys write and say, it doesn't really bother me."

Clearly what bothers Giroux mentally seems to be a little tougher to analyze than what he has endured physically.

A year ago, Giroux was overcoming hip/abdominal surgery and he wasn’t able to prepare for the regular season like he normally would have, as he joined Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

“Every summer is about finding new ways to get better,” Giroux said Wednesday of his offseason training in his native Ottawa. “This summer, I didn’t have to rehab all summer, so I actually had a chance to work out and do what I used to do.

"It was more getting back to explosive stuff, getting stronger, getting faster. I think it’s pretty much the same story for every player — find ways to get better. That’s what we did all summer.”

As he approaches his 30th birthday — he'll turn 30 on Jan. 12 — it’s almost inconceivable to think Giroux and the Flyers haven’t advanced in the playoffs since beating the Penguins in 2012 when the captain was just 24 years old. Those are prime years of a career you can’t get back. Some will say those are wasted years, while others believe you’re wasting time just thinking about it in those terms.

With training camp officially beginning next Friday, Giroux offered up one piece of self-advice Wednesday that will likely serve him best — not only for this season but for the rest of his career.

"It's about going out there and playing hockey," Giroux said. "That's what I know to do best is play hockey. Thinking about other things is not going to change anything how I play on the ice."

Sean Couturier pulls a Chris Pronger as Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins

Sean Couturier pulls a Chris Pronger as Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — Whatever qualifies as the writing on the wall should probably be ignored when it comes to Flyers hockey.

A team that was humiliated and booed off home ice after it was outscored 10-1 in Games 3 and 4 had just about everything working against it during Friday night’s elimination game in Pittsburgh.

The eulogy had been drafted and all it needed was Sidney Crosby’s finishing touches in front of a sellout crowd of screaming, yellow towel-waving fans. The Penguins were ready to bury the bodies and move on to the next round.

“There’s a lot of commotions,” Sean Couturier said. “When s--- hits the fan and things start not going our way, you've got to kind of focus and stick together.”

Couturier was the catalyst in Friday’s 4-2 Game 5 victory (see observations). The Flyers' center knew not long after the morning skate, that regardless of his health, he was determined to play. Claude Giroux even conjured up the memory of an old teammate as additional incentive.

“I told him the story of (Chris) Pronger in Game 6 in Buffalo (2011), and he surprised us at 3:30 after our naps that he was going to be in,” Giroux said. “Before he went on the ice, I said, ‘You gonna pull a Prongs or what?’ And I told him the story and he texted me right after the morning skate and said, ‘I’m pulling a Prongs.’ So it was pretty funny.” 

Despite playing seven and a half minutes below his playoff average, Couturier gutted out nearly 17 minutes of ice time (nearly seven minutes on the penalty kill alone) and scored the game-winning goal with 1:15 remaining in regulation.

“Coots, what he did, he’s a warrior tonight and obviously our MVP,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Just him being out there, it’s huge for us. I think the penalty kill was phenomenal. I think they’re the real reason why he won that game.”

Valtteri Filppula’s shorthanded goal was arguably the turning point with the Penguins threatening to take a two-goal lead late in the second period. While one was left wondering about the Flyers' line combinations, head coach Dave Hakstol trusted Filppula enough to center the top line with Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

It was the 34-year-old center, not Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Giroux, who stepped up offensively in Game 5 with his most productive game as a Flyer, posting a goal and two assists.

“I don’t want to start ranking games and stuff like that, but Fil was good,” Hakstol said. “You've got to do that, especially at playoff time, when injuries are part of it. When your roll changes a little bit, you've got to step forward.”

And before the opening puck drop, it was Michal Neuvirth, not Brian Elliott, who led the team onto the ice. Neuvirth’s last start came in Colorado on March 28 and he hadn’t played a game in net from start to finish in over two months.

His glove save on Crosby inside the final minute sealed the Penguins' fate. 

“He looked great and looked really comfortable in there,” Couturier said. “He had to fight hard for a lot of pucks, and he made some big saves at the end and you can’t ask more from a goalie in the playoffs.”

The Flyers are now 60 minutes (and possibly more) away from forcing a winner-take-all Game 7. 

Two days ago, that was a scenario nobody could draw up.

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — After sitting out the previous game with a right leg injury, Sean Couturier scored the game-winning goal Friday with 1:15 remaining in regulation during the Flyers’ 4-2 Game 5 victory over the Penguins. The Flyers kept their postseason hopes alive as they cut the series deficit to 3-2.

Making his first start of the series, Michal Neuvirth came up with the save of the game when he robbed Sidney Crosby on a point-blank glove stop with 50 seconds left in the third period. 

Neuvirth denied 30 shots in the game.

Claude Giroux opened the scoring with his first goal of the playoff series and his first postseason goal since 2014, which gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Playing on the top line with Giroux and Couturier for the first time this season, Valtteri Filppula scored his first goal in his last 16 playoff games that tied the game at 2-2 late in the second. Filppula had a three-point night with a goal and two assists.

Matt Read sealed the win with an empty-netter. 

Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust added goals for the Penguins.

Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Philadelphia (3 p.m./NBC).

• Despite suiting up and providing a gutsy effort, Couturier appeared to labor early while dealing with his leg injury. Early on, he didn’t have much power behind his shot and didn’t have much of a skating burst as he relied more on solid positional play. However, he seemed to get better as the game moved along. 

Apparently Couturier wasn’t healthy enough to play on the top line or on the No. 1 power-play unit, but he did receive his typical workload on the penalty kill.

• After the Flyers bottled up the Penguins in the first period, Pittsburgh adjusted its attack in the second. That led to easier offensive zone entries and a longer sustained attack in the Flyers’ zone. 

The Pens’ third line capitalized against the Flyers’ fourth line as Rust broke loose from Read and no one picked him up on the backside wraparound.

The Flyers were also held without a shot over 11½ of the second period. Offensive zone time was 4:10 for Pittsburgh to 45 seconds for the Flyers in the second period.

• Neuvirth appeared to have the post covered, but apparently Rust was still able to pop it up and over the goalie’s blade. Regardless, a bad goal. 

Later in the second period, Neuvirth allowed another goal that he should have stopped as Guentzel snapped a shot that slipped between his legs. 

Overall, Neuvirth made some key saves early and on the Penguins’ power play to offset the goals.

• Regardless of the outcome, the Flyers gave Pittsburgh their most physical effort in this seres. They battled for loose pucks and made some of the Pens’ most skilled players, primarily Evgeni Malkin, fight for their possessions. 

Brandon Manning got in Malkin’s face and Radko Gudas came to the defense of Giroux when he fought Jamie Oleksiak after his incidental contact.    

• Despite some concerns that Filppula couldn’t handle the responsibilities as a top-line center, No. 51 was arguably one of the Flyers’ best forwards. Filppula scored shorthanded, played a near perfect first period and provided solid defensive play. He also led the Flyers with four shots on goal.