Claude Giroux Dominated Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in First Round Series

Jason SapunkaCorrespondent IIApril 22, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18: Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers opens the scoring on the powerplay at 1:14 of the first period against Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 18, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins may be the favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season after winning the NHL's scoring title. Sidney Crosby might be the most productive offensive player in the world, with a points-per-game average above 1.6 over the past two seasons.

Both of them were outplayed by a far more valuable player in their first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers: 24-year-old superstar Claude Giroux.

Giroux took over the series and dominated both Malkin and Crosby, helping Philadelphia eliminate the Penguins in six games.

After jumping out to a 3-0 series lead, the Flyers were embarrassed on home ice in Game 4, losing 10-3 in front of thousands of fans who paid the expenses of an NHL playoff game to watch the Penguins get swept. They were all sent home disappointed.

Then in Game 5, the Flyers fell a goal short due to stellar play by Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

At the conclusion of the game, Giroux broke his stick over his goal. The Flyers should not have needed two more games to eliminate the Penguins.

So, when Game 6 started on Sunday afternoon, Giroux came out ready to play from the moment the puck dropped.

Six seconds into the game, the puck was near Crosby's blue line. He stuck out his stick and poked the puck forward. Giroux was there to hit Crosby in the chest and send him on his back.

Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson said that hit set the tone for the game, according to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Just 26 seconds later, Giroux put the Flyers on top by sniping a wrist shot off the post and past Fleury. Giroux raised his arms while yelling at the Philadelphia bench, firing up the team.

Later in the first period, a shot by Giroux led to a rebound which was put in the net by Scott Hartnell for the second Flyers goal.

The game would be no contest from there.

Philadelphia went up 3-0 in the second. Although Pittsburgh was able to get one goal closer at 8:34 of the second period, the Flyers regained the three-goal lead at 9:10. A late empty-net goal pushed the final score to 5-1 as the Flyers eliminated the Penguins in six games.

Giroux's three-point night pushed him to a league-leading 14 playoff points. He leads in both goals (six) and assists (eight) in addition to plus/minus (plus-six).

Giroux currently has five more points than any other player.

Kimmo Timonen said "To me, he’s the best player in the league right now. He’s our motor, our engines, as he goes, we go," according to Sarah Baicker of CSN-Philly.

Crosby and Malkin combined for six goals and 10 assists, equaling 16 points. Crosby was a minus-three in the series while Malkin was a minus-one. 

Pittsburgh's two best players combined for just two assists more than Giroux.

Malkin may very likely win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's regular season MVP, but Giroux came through when it mattered.

"(Giroux) was the best player in the series, no question about it," said Mike Millbury of NBC.


Jason Sapunka covers the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers. He is available on Twitter for updates, commentary and analysis.