The Philadelphia Flyers are now down 2-1 in their best of seven series against the New York Rangers, and superstar Claude Giroux is a no-show.
The Flyer captain, and Hart Trophy finalist, has only managed two points, both assists, in the first three games of the series. On top of that, Giroux has only put two shots on New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in the series.
The two shots Giroux has been able to get on net were not only the first of the series for him, it was also his first shot on net against the Rangers in 115 shifts and 94 minutes of ice time, according to the Daily News Philadelphia Flyers beat writer Frank Seravalli, dating back to Jan. 12.
Here is a link to Giroux’s first shot: http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2013030143-613-h
For the Flyers captain, and top scorer, these numbers are simply unacceptable.
Philadelphia fans remember the early season in which the Flyers went 4-10-1, and Giroux was left goalless in his first 15 outings, all too well.
It was at that point that the captain made the promise to fans that the team would turn it around and make the playoffs. This was a promise he fulfilled.
Now as Philadelphia is down 2-1 in the first round, Giroux has made another promise.
He says the team will tie the series up on Friday before heading back to New York for game five.
Promises are nice and comforting, but the only thing that really matters is being able to deliver on them. However, this most recent one carries much more weight.
The promise of making the playoffs was one where Giroux and the team had months to work on delivering it. Now, it’s turn things around right now, or go home.
Earlier in the season, head coach Craig Berube toyed with the lines a bit to try and get the team going, and maybe that’s what he needs to do here.
One possible solution would be to do the same thing that worked in November: Move Michael Raffl to the top line, and Scott Hartnell down.
Raffl, Giroux and Jakub Voracek clicked for the month that they played together, and some might even contribute Raffl’s play as the reason both Giroux and Voracek turned their seasons around.
Voracek does not need to be moved. He is one of the few players who have shown a tremendous amount of heart. Between his goal in game two that fueled a Flyers comeback, and his fight against Carl Hagelin in game three to try and get his team motivated, he has been the catalyst for any positive play in Philadelphia.
Giroux essentially can’t be moved. He is the star player, the captain and the leading point scorer. Having him anywhere but the top line seems irrational.
This just leaves Hartnell.
By no means has he played poorly, at least not in comparison to the rest of the team, but moving him down, and bringing someone else up to get that top line going might be the only option for Berube.
Berube could always stick to his guys, and say these are my lines, this is how we’ll win, and that isn’t necessarily a bad strategy. However, if the Flyers are not able to win in game four, and go down 3-1 in the series, the likeliness of a comeback would be slim, if not nonexistent.
Other possible options: Moving either Vincent Lecavalier or Jason Akeson to the top line.
Lecavalier could help move the puck, and draw attention away from Giroux, and Akeson, who leads the team in shots on goal in the playoffs, could help put more top line pressure on Lundqvist.
HartnellDown Tracker: Scott sits at 19 HartnellDowns in the playoffs.