By JAY BOEHMER Senior Hockey Insider — email@example.com _______
Every night, it’s someone’s turn to step up. Sometimes it’s the goalie, or a line, or maybe just one player. Last night, it was Claude Giroux.
Giroux was the center of attention, dictating the flow of play every time he was on the ice. When the Islanders attacked with the puck, he was found diving to block shots and laying devastating hip checks.
On the offensive side of the puck, Giroux’s patience left the Islanders’ skaters scrambling, his shots sent goaltender Al Montoya reeling, and his passes stopped defenders in their tracks.
This kind of night caught the attention of everyone, and earned him the praise of his teammates. Chris Pronger said he is playing with confidence, making plays, and controlling the game.
“He always wants the puck. He always wants to be making plays,” Pronger said. “He wants to be that guy in that position that is making things happen.”
Peter Laviolette always took the time to praise Giroux for his high level of competitiveness, and recognize his usefulness come playoff time.
“He seems to be getting stronger and towards the end of the year that is a good thing,” Laviolette said. “He was terrific last year in the playoffs and he has really carried forward with the way he plays.”
Unfortunately, Giroux, along with the rest of his team, was unable to crack this young, energetic New York squad until the second period – after the Flyers had already fallen behind on a goal by Frans Nielsen.
They got the lead for themselves, though, in the second, thanks to hard work by Scott Hartnell leading to a Mike Richards goal, and then a pretty no-look, behind-the-back pass from Claude Giroux to James van Riemsdyk.
The Flyers had come back and retaken control of this game through their best twenty minutes of hockey, as the second period often seems to be for them.
Another goal early in the third – Jeff Carter getting the last piece of a puck off the stick of Claude Giroux – put the Flyers ahead by two.
This two goal lead has been the most dangerous for them lately, as they continue to give up third period comebacks on an all-too regular basis.
Last night was no different, with New York surging back on two goals by Matt Martin. One barely a minute after Carter’s, and the other with about 30 seconds left in the game.
In overtime, the Flyers found a renewed sense of urgency and a rush started by Claude Giroux, Matt Carle and Ville Leino forced the Islanders’ defenders to collapse, leaving Andrej Meszaros open, who “saw the top corner,” and put the puck there to beat Montoya.
The Flyers continue to stumble, but continue to win.
Unlike last season, when nearly every game meant the potential loss of a playoff spot, this year’s Flyers are almost sure of the first seed in the East.
Going up against a team like the Islanders, who – despite their quality hockey of late – are sure to miss the playoffs again, can be difficult. If you don’t expect as much of them, you don’t play your game, and that’s when this kind of team gets an early lead or mounts a last minute comeback.
Get too comfortable, and they’ll make you pay.
To Peter Laviolette, it’s about finding “desperation”.
“Last year, there was a desperation that was built into every game. I miss that a little bit – the desperation,” he said. “I’m not sure how to [bring out that desperation]. I think it’s about professionalism that we all have to have. We need to continue to work hard in practice and in games and strive to be the best we can be.”
And the best they can be is obvious – Stanley Cup winners.