Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers Show Resilience in Big Weekend Wins

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IMarch 2, 2014

Mar 1, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek (93) and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (17) celebrate win against the New York Rangers at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Rangers, 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Both games were against division rivals. Both games had a playoff-like atmosphere. Both games were a battle from start to finish. And the Philadelphia Flyers came out on top in each of them.

It may not make them legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, but the Flyers' victories over the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals this weekend should give them a lot of momentum heading into the final stretch of the season.

On Saturday, the Flyers hosted the Rangers in a matchup that was extremely intense from the first whistle. 

Zac Rinaldo and former Flyer Dan Carcillo got into it numerous times throughout the game, and a number of big hits were delivered by both sides.

But the game itself was extremely crisp and fast-paced, as both sides pressed to get chances. The Rangers actually outshot the Flyers, but they had less quality chances than Philadelphia.

The Flyers put the pressure on Henrik Lundqvist in bursts, which proved to be a theme for the entire weekend. Vincent Lecavalier started things off, and then Sean Couturier scored a beautiful goal just over a minute later.

Even though the Rangers would come back to tie it at two a piece, the Flyers fought back with a vengeance that has been absent at times this season.

They kept skating and forechecking and finally got some breaks around the net. Wayne Simmonds put home one of his classic power-play finishes at 13:23, and the Flyers didn't look back.

The win on Saturday was truly a team effort. All four lines and all three pairs played very well, and energy was sustained throughout the game.

Luke Schenn put in an insurance goal in the third, but they didn't even need it. Steve Mason deserves acknowledgement, too, putting in a 33-save performance that included a few beauties.

While that win was a big one, the one on Sunday was arguably even bigger because of how they did it, coming from behind in dramatic fashion.

After such a heated game on Saturday, there was assuredly some concern that the Flyers wouldn't be able to keep up with the Capitals (although they had played the day before as well).

But Sunday's matinee may have been even more playoff-like than Saturday's contest. The entire game was incredibly physical, with pushing and shoving at nearly every whistle.

Philadelphia took too many penalties and shot itself in the foot with poor decision-making. But the Flyers were sharp on the penalty kill and even had a shorthanded goal.

Throughout the game, the Flyers showed impressive resilience and fortitude, being down 2-1 at the end of the first period and 4-2 at the end of the second.

They also engaged in quite a bit of rough stuff. However, on more than one occasion, most of the physicality stemmed from the Flyers coming to the defense of a teammate, and while they took too many bad penalties, they didn't take any incredibly stupid penalties that really cost them.

The Capitals couldn't say the same, as Dmitri Orlov took an awful charging penalty halfway through the third period that gave the Flyers a five-minute power play. 

After battling hard all game, the Flyers pressed even harder, and Jakub Voracek rifled home a shot to pull Philadelphia within one.

With just a few minutes to play, the Flyers seemed to find an extra gear and really poured it on the Capitals, who could do nothing but try and clamp down and try to block shots.

But Voracek again found a way, as he put the puck on the net and let Giroux make a nifty redirection to get it past Braden Holtby, who was phenomenal in net for most of the night.

Mason was arguably even better than Holtby, however, coming up with a number of huge saves to keep Washington from pulling away. 

After putting it into overdrive in the third period, the Flyers maintained their momentum into overtime, which was an extremely encouraging thing to see.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press/Associated Press

Vincent Lecavalier's game-winning goal wasn't anything spectacular, but it capped off an absolutely spectacular weekend for the Flyers.

There are a number of players who deserve to be commended for their performances this weekend. Mason was very solid in net, and Philadelphia wouldn't have won either game without him.

Sean Couturier was outstanding in both games. He scored a huge goal against the Rangers and then put on a defensive and faceoff clinic against the Caps. Adam Hall was also very effective and added a goal against Washington.

Simmonds helped carry the offensive load with two points on Saturday, and Voracek picked up the slack with three points of his own on Sunday. It can only mean good things for the Flyers when these two are scoring.

Finally, there aren't enough superlatives to describe the play of Giroux. He was easily the best player on the ice Sunday, almost single-handedly willing the Flyers to victory.

The captain ended up with four points after the weekend with two goals and two assists, and he racked up 22:15 of ice time on Sunday, by far the most of any Flyers forward.

But it was more than just his offense; he was all over the ice—blocking shots, killing penalties, winning faceoffs. He stood up to a much bigger Tom Wilson after yet another of Wilson's classless moves and then showed the rookie how a first-rounder plays by scoring the game-tying goal and registering the game-winning assist.

It was an incredibly encouraging weekend for the Flyers players and their fans. With the trade deadline coming up, some players were undoubtedly nervous about their futures, but these two wins will make it very difficult for general manager Paul Holmgren to shake things up too much.

An entire season doesn't change in one weekend, but Philadelphia certainly set itself on the right track for the home stretch.


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