As the NHL playoffs get closer and closer (which sounds weird to say during this time of year), the analysis of potential playoff matchups and the key factors for the Flyers is well underway. Regardless of the matchup, a few things are certain for the Flyers. One of those is that they need their captain to be on top of his game when the playoffs begin to have success.
Claude Giroux’s playoff history can best be described as a long and winding road. We’ve seen examples in all sports where young players reach the pinnacle of their sport early in their career and never getting back to that peak again. In the NFL, Dan Marino reached the Super Bowl in his rookie season and never made it back. In somewhat similar fashion, Giroux in his first full season in the NHL reached the Stanley Cup Final for a Flyers team with a leadership group that included Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger. Giroux was dynamic in those playoffs with 21 points in 23 games — that included 10 goals, 11 assists and an overtime winner in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The two years following that Cup Final run, Giroux continued to be a great player in the playoffs. In 2011, Giroux had 12 points in 11 playoff games. Then, in the 2012 playoffs, Giroux was perhaps his most dominant. Giroux had 17 points in 10 playoff games and was a force in the opening round against the Penguins. In Game 1 of that series, Giroux told his teammates, “Watch my first shift.”
What his teammates saw was the captain put a huge hit on Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and then score a goal to give the Flyers the lead. They never looked back, dispatching their cross-state rival in six games. That playoff run ended with a 4-1 series loss to the Devils in the second round, a series in which Giroux was suspended a game after a hit on Dainus Zubrus in Game 4.
Since 2011-12, the playoffs haven’t been exactly kind to No. 28, with first-round losses in 2014, 2016 and 2018. In those years combined, in 19 playoff games, Giroux scored just three goals and registered only seven assists for a total of 10 points. In the Flyers' last playoff appearance against the Penguins in 2018, Giroux had a minus-10 rating in six games.
The past few seasons have been a little different for Giroux with moving to the wing, while still assuming some of the center’s defensive responsibilities at times. Could that change in position allow Giroux to be that dominant force on the offensive end again? Possibly. Of course, playing with Sean Couturier in the middle is never a bad thing and that’s likely where Giroux will find himself when this year’s playoffs begin and the captain looks to regain his early career offensive playoff magic.
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