Claude Giroux demands respect to be put on his name as the Philadelphia Flyers enter a road trip after a victory.
Not long ago, the Philadelphia Flyers roster was unable to outscore the New York Rangers. The reformatted top-six forwards curated all of the goals while players quarantined in COVID protocol. In those two games without any returning players, the Flyers had a goal differential of -5.
When Claude Giroux returned Wednesday night, his impact rippled throughout the lineup. His fingerprints were found on three separate scoring plays, canceling out Chris Kreider’s hat trick. Giroux played with moxie, and the jump in his game was contagious through even strength and powerplay scenarios. As a team, Philadelphia played their best hockey of the season. The only caveat was the penalty kill unit.
By adding one player to the lineup, the Flyers found offense. The impact Giroux has on the team proved to be vital. That should be of no surprise. He continues to play a pivotal role in Philadelphia, whether he is scoring the goals or not. Giroux continues to answer his critics as a top-four points scorer on the team.
His playmaking is a strong suit in 2020-2021. Complementing his offensive prowess are the finer details in his game. Giroux leads in faceoff percentage for the Flyers, creating extra possessions. Against the Rangers, he won 72.7% of his draws, improving to 57.4% on the year. Nearly half of his assists occurred on the powerplay, creating the bulk of Philadelphia’s 20.7% conversion rate.
Heading into tomorrow afternoon, more players could join Giroux off the COVID protocol list. Earlier this week, Justin Braun skated in a morning session. Oskar Lindblom, Jakub Voracek, and Scott Laughton returned to practice today with intentions of playing tomorrow. The Flyers are almost healthy again as they continue their playoff push.
Four Flyers Returning Saturday
As expected, Braun and Voracek cleared COVID protocol earlier this week. They’re joined today by Lindblom and Laughton. The only player remaining in COVID protocol for Philadelphia is Travis Konecny. The timing is impeccable as the Flyers near full recovery.
Defensively, Braun hasn’t played his best this season. With that said, his return could help a struggling penalty kill unit. Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim filled in those duties in the recent two losses. On Wednesday, Ivan Provorov replaced Sanheim with no improvement. Braun would be an upgrade in that role.
Offensively, Voracek is fifth in team scoring. Three of his total assists (9) have taken place on the powerplay. Arguably, Voracek is the most dangerous forward Philadelphia has in man-advantage scenarios. The Flyers are most likely to convert a powerplay opportunity with him on the ice. That conversion probability increases with Giroux on the same unit.
Lindblom and Laughton help stabilize the forward depth. Both players use their vision to create scoring plays. Earlier this season, Lindblom sent a banking pass off the boards to spring Konecny wide open for a breakaway goal versus the Buffalo Sabres. Laughton has accounted for a hat trick and a game-winning goal in 2020-2021. Both players will improve Philadelphia’s forecheck en route to stealing possessions and scoring.
Trust The Prosser
Nate Prosser could find his way back into the lineup in the next six games. His last start left a positive impression on the Flyers coaching staff. Mark Friedman was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins, partly due to Prosser advancing him on the depth chart, per Charlie O’ Connor. Alain Vigneault made a decision with Braun to clear the COVID protocol. Instead of carrying nine defensemen, Prosser declared his position on Philadelphia’s taxi squad.
Today, Prosser took repetitions alongside Philippe Myers. Myers had difficulty against the Rangers on Wednesday, and Vigneault wanted to observe Braun with Sanheim. Under Vigneault, the Flyers have embraced an unselfish, team-first attitude. Vigneault didn’t confirm that Myers would be scratched against the Sabres tomorrow. Working Prosser alongside Myers in today’s practice will help elevate both of the defensemen.
Fans Return to the Farg?
Lately, the potential return of fans to the Wells Fargo Center has been a hot topic. As of today, the maximum number of people at events increased from 250 to 500. Unfortunately for fans, that maximum capacity amount includes staff. For the Wells Fargo Center to welcome fans, staffing alone would exceed the capacity amount. Philadelphia will have to pump the breaks on bringing fans back into the arena.
Here is the press release regarding the news:
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre