Flyers desperately need Claude Giroux to find his form

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Flyers desperately need Claude Giroux to find his form

Claude Giroux’s torrid finish over the final 10 games of the regular season is undoubtedly the single-biggest reason the Flyers earned a first-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Without his contributions, the Flyers would have already conducted their exit interviews.

But the team is still searching for the player that posted a career-high 34 goals and 102 points.

Through the first three games of the series, Giroux has managed one assist. He hasn’t experienced this lack of production over a three-game span since the beginning of February, Games 51-53 of the regular season, which more than anything speaks to how dominant he was over the final two months of the regular season.

Upon further inspection, Giroux’s shot has been wickedly off the mark. Excluding shots that were blocked, Giroux hit the net on 76 percent of his attempted shots during the regular season. That number has dipped dramatically in the Pittsburgh series to just 44 percent.

Of the 10 shots he fired in Game 3, five never had a chance at becoming a goal. The captain’s marksmanship hadn’t been this far off the mark in a single game since March 2014. Uncharacteristically, Giroux’s nine missed shots in the postseason now lead all NHL players.

Somewhere there’s a “gripping the stick too tightly” cliche just ready to roll off the tongue.

Giroux’s lack of scoring aside, the most startling sequence of events came right after Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal early in the second period. It was a moment head coach Dave Hakstol referred to as the point in Game 3 when he should have utilized a timeout (see story).

It might have prevented the fastest two goals in NHL postseason history. Sidney Crosby not only won the faceoff cleanly but skated around the Flyers’ captain, who appeared so shell-shocked that he forgot to pick up Brian Dumoulin, who jumped in from his left defense position to take Crosby’s pass and score on a snap shot.

Goaltender Brian Elliott even appeared surprised how that play unfolded.

“We can’t get beat off of a neutral-zone draw like that and have a guy walking down Main Street,” Elliott said. “It’s just another thing that I don’t think we’re ready for right off the draw there.”

If there’s one aspect of Giroux’s game that’s a notch above the competition, it’s his work in the faceoff circle. He took over 1,000 draws this season and was never beaten that badly.

After cleaning up in Game 1, Giroux won less than 40 percent of his faceoffs in Games 2 and 3, which hadn’t happened in back-to-back playoff games since the epic seven-game series against Boston in 2010.

Entering this series, the Flyers needed one of two things to happen to have a legitimate chance at dethroning the two-time champs: superior goaltending or the Flyers’ elite players outperforming Pittsburgh’s elites.

So far, neither have happened.

Crosby once went 13 straight playoff games without a goal. The Penguins suffered then, and the Flyers can’t survive without Giroux at his best in this series. 

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

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Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers. 

Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

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Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

Updated: 9:44 p.m.

Three young forwards will all be staying in the Flyers organization, at least for one more year.

Sunday, the team announced that Danick Martel accepted his qualifying offer on a one-year contract, and that restricted free agents Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne signed one-year deals.

Restricted free agent goalie Anthony Stolarz has also accepted his qualifying offer of $761,250, according to a report from John Hoven. Stolarz, 24, played in just one game for the Phantoms in the 2017-18 season after undergoing surgery on a meniscus tear last summer. A second-round pick by the Flyers in the 2012 draft, Stolarz went 18-9 and posted a 2.92 goals against average with Lehigh Valley in 2016-17.

Though the team didn't include any salary details, Martel's deal is reportedly a two-way contract worth $715,000.

The 23-year-old Martel made his NHL debut last season, finishing with no points and six shots over four games. He scored a career-best 25 goals for Lehigh Valley.

With Leier, the Flyers avoided a possible arbitration hearing. According to CapFriendly, Leier's contract is a one-way deal for $720,000. Leier's hearing was scheduled for Aug. 3. The team also earlier avoided a hearing with Alex Lyon, their other player who filed for arbitration, signing the goalie to a two-year deal.

A fourth-round selection in 2012, Leier had one goal and four assists in 39 regular-season games with the Flyers as a rookie.

Goulbourne, who made his NHL debut on Jan. 6, appeared in nine regular-season contests, with 15 hits.

If Stolarz is indeed back in the fold, Robert Hagg would be the team's only remaining restricted free agent. 

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