NEW YORK — Claude Giroux is what many call a quiet leader.
He doesn't say the most, but his actions sure speak loudly.
Teammates look up to such a persona, like they did at the Barclays Center on Thursday night.
“He’s got character,” Sean Couturier said in a bit of amazement. “He’s a true warrior.”
With 2:45 remaining in the third period, Giroux was rung in the jaw by Casey Cizikas’ stick, dropping him to the ice and then off it for NHL concussion protocol. Moments later, the Flyers’ captain was dropping jaws with a sparkling move for the lone score in the Flyers’ 3-2 shootout win over the Islanders.
“I was just trying to change speeds,” Giroux said. “Just tried to do a move and it worked.”
Giroux unleashed a slew of dekes and fakes to totally throw off goalie Jaroslav Halak.
“G’s goal — when you put the goalie outside the net and have an empty net,” Matt Read said, “you’re doing something right.”
Couturier, quite skilled himself and a six-year teammate of Giroux's, was still impressed.
“We’re kind of used to seeing it in practice,” he said, “but it’s pretty unbelievable to see it in an actual game.”
Before it all, Giroux scurried off the ice and was mandated to watch. The Flyers, trailing 2-1 with less than a minute left in regulation, scored on the power play awarded from Cizikas’ penalty. When the goal crossed, Giroux was seen on the television broadcast making a subtle pump of the fist and quickly tapping the security guard to allow him back to the bench.
“I don’t think there was any way he would miss overtime,” Couturier said.
“The protocol, it’s a new thing there,” Giroux said. “I just got off the ice right away to kind of get it out of the way.
“I think it’s the league. The league looks at the play and then they make a decision. I felt fine, I was just trying to get it out of the way as soon as possible to get back out there.”
He was back out there and ultimately winning the game, the Flyers’ season-best third straight. Giroux’s point streak was snapped at a career-high 10 games. Despite that, a red nose and what was probably a still-throbbing face, he was in good spirits afterwards.
So where did Cizikas get him?
“He got me right under the nose,” Giroux said. “The stick came out of nowhere.”
Then with a laugh, he said ...
“Yeah, it’s really fun.”
Last week, Giroux was in the midst of his point streak and leading the NHL in assists, but was openly critical of his play. He was disappointed with his defensive game, lack of creativity on offense and the plus-minus figure. (Yes, players do look at that stat, the three-time All-Star said.)
“When you’re on the ice, you obviously want to be a plus player,” he said at the time. “Right now, that’s obviously not the case and one of the main reasons I’m not happy with my play right now.”
The self-criticism was a form of Giroux’s leadership. Not a rah-rah speech or angry postgame antics, but the want to get better even at this stage of his career.
It’s what head coach Dave Hakstol and the rest of the Flyers notice the most.
“Claude’s case, he takes so much upon himself in terms of a leadership role and overall team success,” Hakstol said last week. “I don’t have to say a whole lot to G. He’s a pretty sharp guy.”