Giroux’s Winning Play May Have Saved Flyers Season

The scenario is a familiar one to Flyers fans.  The Flyers have a one-goal lead with the final seconds of the game clicking by, then, bam!, the other team scores and here we are in overtime.  Another hard-fought regulation victory lost at the last possible moment.  But that is exactly what happened Friday evening when the Flyers gave up a goal to the Predators’ Mike Fisher with only 20 seconds left in the game, leaded to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation.  At that moment I was so frustrated that the Flyers had been unable to hold the lead, that I forgot that they actually had a chance to win the game in OT.  It was too easy to think that a team that had just given up a lead at the end of regulation was not going to fare well in OT.  And, we know how things go for the Flyers if OT progresses to a shootout.  All I could think about was what the Flyers were lacking:  focus, determination, leadership, mental toughness.  And I have never been so happy to have been so wrong.

With 52 seconds left in OT, the Predators were called for a too many men on the ice penalty, giving the Flyers a 4-on-3 advantage.  Before setting up for the powerplay, the Flyers called a timeout.  Coach Dave Hakstol handed the whiteboard to captain Claude Giroux and he drew up what would become the game-winning play – a slap shot by rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere assisted by Giroux and Voracek.  In a flash, a regulation disappointment turned into an OT victory.  But I think this win meant much more than that.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I imagine that most NHL head coaches draw up their team’s plays most of the time.  So Hakstol handing that duty to Giroux at such a critical time spoke volumes.  I think he was saying:  “I may be the coach, but you are the captain.  You are out there on the ice with your teammates and you are their peer and leader.  I trust you to make the best decision in this situation.”  Maybe I am reading too much into this, but this move and outcome had to do wonders to the Flyers’ team psyche and confidence.  As the team has struggled this season, there have been questions about team leadership, the coach’s new system, and the team’s desire to win.  I think that this timeout and resulting win answers some of those questions.  Namely, Giroux is the team’s leader, they do listen to him and respect him (as does their new coach), and their new coach is willing to entrust the game to his players – the sign of a good coach.

Time will tell what this moment in the Flyers 2015-16 season meant, but so far it looks good.  Yesterday, the Flyers went into the always tough Madison Square Garden and defeated the New York Rangers 3-0.  A turning point in that game was reportedly Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn coming to the defense of teammate Nick Schultz when Schultz was injured on a hit.  Though he was hit with a penalty for fighting, Schenn’s teammates praised him for turning around the momentum of the game.  Another boost to the team psyche and self-confidence, which seem to be getting stronger by the day.  Maybe it will be proven that giving Giroux the whiteboard during OT of that Black Friday game against the Predators was one of the smartest things Hakstol did all year.

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Flyers Not Playing Boldly

By guest blogger Joseph Franco

#PlayBoldly! That is the Flyers slogan for the season. Too bad the Flyers’ marketing department didn’t check with the players before plastering this phrase all over souvenir cups and the like.

Let’s take a look at a season that started with a good effort versus Tampa. That’s about where the season ended.  Since that opening night in Florida, the Flyers traveled to Miami, where they ran on the beach before the game and then didn’t #PlayBoldly versus the Panthers. They’ve also managed losses against New Jersey, who was projected to be as bad as the Flyers. The Flyers then lost to Buffalo at home and lost to Buffalo in Buffalo. They gave up 49 shots while putting up only 22 in Edmonton. They lost to Calgary, who had been 1-5 in their building before the Flyers came to town. The Flyers also carried a four-plus goals against for that stretch.  #PlayBoldly.   And let’s look at the goals scored on that trip. Buffalo: 1,  Vancouver: 1, Edmonton: 2, Calgary: 1.  And the picture looks even more bleak tonight after a shutout loss to Colorado and another team meeting.

And the pride problems run deep in this organization. The newly-promoted president, Paul Holmgren, started the problem when he was general manager. He signed several big-dollar, long-term contracts with veterans that didn’t pan out. And it will take new GM Ron Hextall several more years to dig out from under the impossible salary cap situation that Holmgren left him. Yet Holmgren still collects a paycheck from the organization.

After the loss in Calgary, the team strives to remain positive. Michael Raffl was quoted as saying “if we play like we played last night, we’re going to win a lot of games.” But here’s the problem, did I mention that the Flames only beat one team in six tries before the Flyers came to town? And that they gave up an ungoldly 4+ goals a game at home? So, it’s great to be positive, but Raffl, your squad just lost to a team that is BAD. You’re not going to win games when you can’t win a game against a team that hadn’t won at home.  Follow that with Dave Hakstol’s quote: “We earned a point.” Well, I know that you’re coming over from college, but the game in the NHL is to win. A point isn’t helpful when it’s against a team that gave away 10 before you came into town. It’s a loss. It is what it is.

And all of this brings me to the subject of leadership. Where is Giroux? Where is Voracek? Didn’t they both recently sign big contracts? I seem to recall comments from the captain such as “we’re hungry after reflecting on last season.” Really? #PlayBoldy? Really?   There seems to be a lack of pride amongst the team. Raffl’s quote could be taken as being good with losing. Team meetings mean nothing if they don’t translate into change. Too many men on the ice penalties. Twice in a game? Three times in two games? Where is the focus? Where is the pride? Where is the leadership? Where is Hextall (who is actually trying to fix the mess)? At the very least, the Flyers should be competitive. And the team should figure out how to play 60 minutes every game, not just the games against winning teams. The fans are paying big bucks to fill the Wells Fargo Center seats and are devoting time to the team only to watch losses to bad teams. Sloppy play. No defense. No offense. Pride? Where is it?

#PlayBoldly?  Really?  When does that start?