The 2013-14 NHL season started poorly for the Philadelphia Flyers and their captain Claude Giroux. Three games into the campaign the club canned head coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with first time NHL bench boss Craig Berube.
The entire situation in Philly was volatile, it seemed, especially since the Flyers missed the playoffs last season, creating doubt about how good they actually were, and are.
The Flyers began this season with a 1-7-0 record. Captain Claude Giroux had zero goals. It wasn’t pretty in Philly, and to make matters worse, Hockey Night In Canada’s Elliott Friedman did some digging and discovered that since Armageddon in 2005, NHL clubs that started slowly, almost always missed the playoffs. In fact, Friedman revealed that since the 2005-06 NHL season, only four times had a club qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs if it was more than four points out of a spot by the end of October. This season, the Flyers were more than four points out in October, and the math was against them.
Claude Giroux didn’t care much for the mathematical science behind his team’s chances to make the postseason this season, and he made it clear to media on October 22, when he guaranteed the Flyers would be among the Cup challengers by season’s end. Bold statement from a bold player – he was right, though, it seems.
With two weeks left in the 2013-14 NHL season the Philadelphia Flyers have a five-point cushiony lead over the top non-playoff team in the Eastern Conference. In other words, they’re going to make it. Here is Giroux’s prophetic prediction from earlier this season, courtesy of Yahoo!:
“When you have the record we have right now, you’re a little frustrated and you try to figure out what’s going on but everybody came to the rink and we know there’s a lot of hockey left to play here.
“We’re not far at all. How many points are we off, six? To think that with the start we had, we’re that close. We’ve never thought that we’re not going to make the playoffs.
We’ll take it here game-by-game and we will make the playoffs.”
And they did: they climbed back into the race and they currently find themselves on the inside – in a pretty comfortable position to qualify.
The Flyers whipped more than fifty shots at the Boston Bruins today in a game they lost 4-3 in a shootout – a game they could’ve and should’ve won if not for a Vezina calibre performance by Bruins ace Tuukka Rask. And the Bruins are the best of the best these days, having earned points in sixteen straight games, or in twenty-one of their last twenty-two, if you will.
The Flyers missed the playoffs last season for one reason and one reason only, and had you watched them play you saw it as clear as day: their blue line was too slow footed – terribly slow footed, you could say. And that lack of speed was a hinderance too large to cover up by being great in other areas. But the Flyers added mobile veteran defenceman Mark Streit in the off-season and recently acquired Andrew McDonald from the New York Islanders, and that blue line ain’t so slow no more. Problem solved.
Giroux couldn’t buy a point, let alone a goal, in the first six weeks of the season, but these 82-gamers can never truly be evaluated until the end. Like a race, it doesn’t matter who’s leading after the first lap; Giroux has 78 points now, which is good enough for third best in the NHL, and all things considered, he’s easily a top three candidate for the Hart trophy. If the powers that be ever decide to stop giving the Hart to the Art Ross winner, Giroux’s probably deserved of winning the thing, this season.
Any old player could’ve said, “we’ll make the playoffs,” after a bad start. I mean, what else you supposed to say? But Giroux delivered: he put the Flyers on his back and carried them to a playoff spot. And now look at them: they’re destined for a first round matchup against the New York Rangers. Should they defeat the Blueshirts, they get the winner of the Penguins and some wild card squad that they’re hoping isn’t a healthy Red Wings. They weren’t supposed to make the playoffs, and now they’re in, and they could go far, and Claude Giroux called it.