For the team, the fans, and most importantly Steve Mason, last night’s loss was rough. The Flyers’ offense continues to look anemic and the only saving grace for this team continues to be Mason. For the most part, he is the only reason that the Flyers were not blown out of last nights game. He made a few improbable saves that kept this contest scoreless late into the 3rd period. I recommend taking a look at some of the highlight videos from the game to get a sense of the saves that I am referring to. Mason deserved a shut out and I cannot begin to imagine how incredibly frustrated he must have been after last night.
That being said, I would like to talk a little bit about what has been going on with Claude Giroux. Everyone I have talked to this season doesn’t seem to have any idea about what is going with the captain. If you would have told me before the season started that after 14 games Claude would not have a goal, I would have laughed. Alas, a statement that would have been considered downright foolish has become a reality and it’s almost too hard to fathom. Really? Fourteen games in and he has not registered a goal. Think about that for a second then ask yourself why.
Up until this point I have unconditionally supported Giroux, but that’s not to say that I haven’t had my doubts about his performance this season. Granted it’s still early on, but this is starting to get a little ridiculous and I just don’t have an answer as to why this is happening. I know a lot of people will cite the “C” on his sweater as a weight that is bringing him down; that the added responsibility of being a leader is bring down his game. I don’t really agree with this simply because of the 2011-2012 season in which Giroux essentially acted as captain on and off the ice for the team even though he was still considered an alternate in Pronger’s absence.
Another possibility that I have heard talked about is that Jaromir Jagr was the only reason Giroux exploded into the elite player that he was supposed to be throughout the remainder of his career. Due to Jagr’s absence many believe that what we are seeing is Giroux’s true colors as a player. Again, I’m not really believing this either. I know that the team as a whole, especially Hartnell and Giroux, benefited greatly from Jagr’s ability to possess the puck and create space for everyone else on the ice, but I don’t think his ability was completely linked to Giroux’s success. A lot of Claude’s game comes from his play making and stickhandling ability, something that Jagr’s presence could definitely amplify but not completely dictate. This season the passing and decision making just isn’t there for Giroux. There have been blind passes to the center of the ice and through the neutral zone, lazy misreads, and what looks like all around questionable judgement on his part. It’s not like this happens every once in awhile, it’s happening all the time.
The goal that tied the game was completely on him, but what makes it worse was his effort to prevent it. It was disgraceful and lazy play that resulted in the goal, even though it was a very solid play by the Canes. It was his breakdown that allowed the goal with so little time left in the game. Claude, when things aren’t going your way offensively it should make your effort on defense 100 times more intense. I still believe that you are the best player and cornerstone on this team, but it’s hard to constantly give you the benefit of the doubt when a critical breakdown like that occurs. This team needs every win they can get and can’t afford lazy sloppy play, especially from their captain.
Maybe he just needs to simplify his game and not try to force things so much. Maybe it is just a slump, a really long slump, but I fear that things may only get worse. We cannot forget that this is a team effort and the longer this team continues to struggle, the hard it is going to be for the players to keep their confidence up and produce like they should.