Claude Giroux Takes His First Big Step as Philadelphia Flyers Captain

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Claude Giroux Takes His First Big Step as Philadelphia Flyers Captain
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

After calling out his team last week, captain Claude Giroux led a determined and motivated Philadelphia Flyers team out on the ice Monday afternoon that dominated the New York Islanders 7-0.

Giroux was critical of his teammates (via Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia) following a lackluster defeat to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday as the team fell to 6-9-1 on the season.

“We gotta play 60 minutes and compete,” Giroux said. “We've got guys in there that care. It's unacceptable the way we played tonight. It's not just one or two or three guys. It's the whole team. ... We've gotta be ready for those games.

“Just no compete. We're not competing. We're not winning battles. We're just going through the motions.”

The Flyers had lost three of their last four games heading into Monday's matchup and desperately needed to take two points from a very beatable Islanders team.

Giroux was going to make sure his team was prepared and focused right from start, and he took matters into his own hands by opening the scoring with a goal 26 seconds into the game, which set the tone for what would be the finest performance from Philadelphia this season.

"We wanted to win and I think it showed on the ice," said Giroux after Monday's victory (via Flyers.com).

"As a team we weren't satisfied how we showed up every game and how we played as a team, I think it wasn't acceptable. Tonight you saw everyone coming out, everybody was paying the price, everybody wanted to win, it's a lot more fun to play like that and we're going to keep playing like that.

"It's not about the message it's about the whole team being on the same plan, being on the same goals to win the game. We can't be looking at the big picture right now we're aware that we're not in the playoff right now. But we got to look at the small picture and every game we got to show up and play the full 60."

Giroux finished the game with two goals and an assist. The Flyers' first line of Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Matt Read combined for a season-high 10 points.

This is the kind of effort Giroux wants from his club on a nightly basis, and credit him for speaking out publicly to light a fire under his struggling team.

It's difficult being a young captain for a contending team in a major hockey market such as Philadelphia. Longtime Detroit Red Wings star Steve Yzerman, who is arguably the finest captain of this generation, went through a number of tough times as a captain during his early 20s, but the added responsibility made him a better leader and a more productive player.

The same will likely happen to Giroux, especially since he has already experienced so many highs and lows after just three full NHL seasons.

Being the face and leader of a franchise as prominent as the Flyers can be quite a burden for some players, but Giroux has handled it brilliantly thus far and is not shying away from being vocal about his team's performance, which is an encouraging sign for the team and its fans.

Some leaders lead by example or with words, but Giroux mixes in a little of both to inspire his teammates. He's done this many times in the past, and will continue to motivate his team because he is well respected in the locker room and around the league.

All great leaders explain the effort that is required and then show it on the ice, which is why Giroux was the perfect choice to wear the "C" for his team.

“Everybody took [Giroux's criticism from Saturday's game] personally – and that was the goal,” said Briere. “But once again though, he took care of it himself at the start of the game and we had no choice but to follow suit. That’s huge leadership on his part.”

Al Bello/Getty Images

Monday's win was a step in the right direction for the Flyers and something they can build on moving forward.

Despite all of the injuries head coach Peter Laviolette has dealt with this season, his squad has more than enough talent to be in the top eight of the Eastern Conference throughout the season. This is one of the NHL's most resilient teams.

The next test for the Flyers is a game that could define their season. They play the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, who currently sit atop the East standings 22 points.

A road win versus the Penguins would give the Flyers a ton of confidence heading into a stretch of five very winnable games (Panthers, Jets, Leafs, Capitals, Senators) before a March 5 showdown with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

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The passion, intensity and desire that makes the Flyers one of the most exciting teams to watch has been absent in many of their games this season. Giroux knows that his team thrives in its physical style of play where it dictates the pace of the game and doesn't get bullied by the opposing team. The victory over New York was a great example of this.

Giroux got his team to play Flyers hockey on Monday, and this must continue for Philadelphia to climb back into a playoff spot with just 31 games remaining in this shortened season.

There's plenty of time for the team to turn its season around, but the Flyers must be more consistent if they are to finish the year strongly.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was also a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston.

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