After tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes, it is clear that Claude Giroux has his partner in crime: Mike Richards. Richards set-up another scoring opportunity when he made an incredible pass with his back turned just seconds into the Flyers second period power play.
The pass went right to Giroux who turned around and buried it past Justin Peters to put the Flyers up 2-1. The Flyers didn't look back as they won the game 3-2 and extended their winning streak to four games. This isn't the first time this season that this dynamic duo has connected for a critical Flyers goal.
The same thing happened against the Penguins just a few days ago on Oct. 29th. The Flyers were on the penalty kill, where Giroux has shined early on this year. Mike Richards stole a Kris Letang pass and started a breakaway.
As Richards barreled down the ice towards Marc-Andre Fleury, Letang was able to catch up and poke the puck away from Richards. As the Penguins, as well as their commentary crew, thought they had stopped the offensive drive for now, Richards gave a quick look over his shoulder and sent a bullet across the ice to a wide open Claude Giroux, who did what he does best, and put a beautiful backhand shot past Fleury.
Richards drew both Penguin defensemen away from the center of the zone, which allowed Giroux to sneak in behind them to get the goal. This was Giroux's third short handed goal this season, and his second shorty against the Penguins.
Since the beginning of this year, Giroux has been all over the ice, always finding a way to give himself a chance to score. When he gets the chance he usually buries it which is why he leads the team with seven goals.
And so far this year Richards has been the man that sets him up. He leads the team with nine assists and has always been able to find the open man throughout his career. In the past three seasons, he has averaged 42.6 assists a year and is on a pace to do the same this year.
Although Richards has only scored one goal so far this season, when he has the puck in the offensive zone, he attracts multiple defenders. This allows other players to get open behind the defense, giving Richards a wide open pass for a scoring opportunity.
Richards is still a lethal goal scorer when he gets the opportunity and sooner or later he will get back into the three stars for scoring goals this season.
Having Richards and Giroux on the ice at the same time creates a dangerous combination that will stifle defenders hopefully for years to come. It becomes a game of "pick your poison" because Richards knows how to put points on the board and Giroux knows how to share the puck as well, as seen by his assist to Darroll Powe against the Buffalo Sabres early last week.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette has realized that when you put these two young stars together, good things happen. Richards, 25 and Giroux, 22, have plenty of great years left in the them.
Richards is still enjoying his 12 year contract that he got in the 2007-2008 season, and if Giroux keeps playing like he is now, he should be receiving his own long-term deal quite soon.
It would be wise for General Manager Paul Holmgren to lock up Claude Giroux quickly, because I know about 29 other teams who are interested in this young goal scorer as soon as he was available.