A moment that sticks in the minds of Flyers fans is Brian Boucher celebrating after making a save to win the shootout against the Rangers in the final game of the season. If the Flyers would have lost this game, their entire postseason run would not have even happened. We would have never known that history is meant to be broken and that being down 3-0 in a series or 3-0 in game 7 of that series is not a big deal. What most people don’t remember is who had the game winning goal in the shootout, Claude Giroux was that player. The goal itself was nothing special but it was the goal responsible for taking the team to the playoffs. He skated in, slowed down, and beat the goalie through the five hole. It was a less than spectacular looking play from the Flyers 23 year old center.
Giroux isn’t necessarily know for his goal scoring, he is known for having a special talent of knowing exactly where his teammates are whenever he has the puck, he makes some passes where you are almost left starring at the TV. This is not a shot against Richards or Carter, but Giroux has the highest ceiling of any other player on the team. He is truly on the verge of becoming a super star and being one of the most dominate players in the NHL. While playing Junior Hockey in the QMJHL, he put up some amazing numbers. The year before he was drafted, he scored 103 points in just 69 games with the Gatineau Grads. The 103 points included a staggering 64 assists. Following the 2005-2006 season with Grads, he was drafted by the Flyers with the 22nd pick in the 2006 NHL draft. It makes you wonder how he was drafted so late in the draft after having such a great season but I don’t think the Flyers minded. After being drafted, he decided to continue playing with his Junior Hockey team and then he would join the Phantoms after the season was over. The following seasons he didn’t slow down, in the 2006-07 season he scored 112 points (48 goals, 64 assists) in just 63 games. Then he followed that up scoring 106 points in just 55 games (38 goals, 68 assists).
Giroux made his Flyers debut late in the 2007-2008 season, but the call up was mainly to fill in for injured players. In that season he only played two games for the team. He began the 2008-2009 season with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Claude began the season on a tear and was named the AHL Rookie of the Month for December. His great play led to a call up after the team’s Christmas break. In just 33 games with the Phantoms, he had scored 34 points (17 goals, 17 assists). After the call up, he remained with the Flyers for the rest of the season where registered an impressive 27 points in just 42 games. Like the majority of the Flyers team, the 2009-10 season was an inconsistent one. He was paired with fellow former first round pick James Van Riemsdyk and the two youngsters seemed overmatched at times. They both showed some flashes but also played like the inexperience professional players they were. Giroux played all 82 games with the Flyers last season and had an okay season. But it wasn’t the season that most fans had anticipated; he finished the season with just 47 points.
It all seemed to click for him once he scored the game winning goal in the shootout of the last game. Giroux started playing like the player that most fans knew he could be. In the postseason last year, he scored 10 goals, including 2 game winning goals. One of those game winning goals was in overtime in game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers were trailing 2-1 in the series and his goal in game 3 put the team back into the series. Giroux entered this season with very high expectations; most fans thought he could take the next step and become one of the team’s best players.
So far in just 54 games, Giroux has registered a team high 51 points. He is also third on the team in goals with 19 and tied for first with Captain Mike Richards with 32 assists. Claude was also one of the two Flyers who represented the team in the All-Star game earlier this month. During the Flyers game against the Stars on Thursday night, Giroux had another amazing assist setting up fellow All-Star Danny Briere for the eventual game winning goal. He is a smaller hockey player at 5-11 179 but he is not afraid to play the physical game, he isn’t afraid to put a good check on a player if the time is right. Earlier this season he even dropped the gloves and was involved in a fight. He held his own and didn’t look overmatched.
The potential that he has is unmatched with any other player on the team. The sense he has for his teammate’s while on the ice is something that most fans hadn’t seen since back when Peter Forsberg was in his prime. He makes some plays that you would think he had another pair of eyes somewhere on his helmet, because a normal person could have never seen his teammate cutting to the net. Giroux doesn’t play with the same grittiness as a Mike Richards, but with his immense talent he doesn’t have to. He can skate around players and glide in for the goal or he will find his teammate streaking to the net for an easy goal. Claude Giroux may not be a super star just yet, but don’t blink or you will miss his rise to stardom.