Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux made his return with authority on Wednesday night.
Giroux, who tested positive for COVID on February 9th, missed the last two games on the COVID Protocol list. “It’s not that fun watching the guys play when you’re at home,” Giroux said. “To be back on the ice, it was very exciting.”
It was very exciting to watch as well. Giroux was the best player on the ice in the 4-3 win.
Giroux said after the game that he “didn’t feel that great.” Well, you couldn’t tell based on his performance on Wednesday night.
The captain returned to the ice for the first time since February 7th. He led the Flyers with 12 shot attempts, eight shots on goal, eight scoring chance, and three points (all assists).
Alain Vigneault knew that Giroux wanted to play. He didn’t even bother talking to Giroux about it after morning skate. If Giroux is healthy, he plays. That’s just how it is.
Vigneault said that him being “surprised” by Giroux’s performance “would be an understatement.” He didn’t know what to expect.
“You could tell early on that he had his game tonight. Geez, he had a lot of jump. He had quickness to his game, he was making plays, Vigneault continued.
The head coach is right. Giroux had energy from the jump. On his first shift, he nearly scored off the rush. It was almost a “The Shift”-esque situation, but this would’ve been less electric with no fans in the stands.
Even with no fans and the shot hitting Igor Shesterkin‘s glove, it set the tone for the rest of the night.
After the Flyers’ first power play, Giroux stayed on the ice and helped create the game’s opening goal. He made a nifty play to reach back and chip Nicolas Aube-Kubel‘s pass to himself before batting it into the Rangers zone.
He didn’t stop there, however. He stayed on the ice and went on to win a battle and get the secondary assist on Erik Gustafsson‘s goal.
“What he’s doing on the ice and in the locker room is so important for us. It was great to have him back,” Gustafsson said of his captain.
Giroux was on the scoresheet, and he wasn’t even close to being done.
He picked up a secondary assist on the Flyers’ next goal as well. This time he was more of a decoy as Gostisbehere and Gustafsson played catch before the goal.
Giroux recognized the lane opening up with Gostisbehere’s fake one-timer and moved down low for a possible rebound or pass.
He showed that jump and grittiness toward the end of the first period. He dove back to pass the puck to Ivan Provorov, which led to a rush and a one-time chance from the circle after a nice play by Nolan Patrick.
Giroux played 7:36 in the first period – 5:43 at 5v5, 1:15 on the power play, and 0:37 on the penalty kill. He had four shot attempts (all on net) in total, including two scoring chances. He was feeling it.
In the second period, he went right back to work.
The captain’s third and final assist on the night was his best. It was the eventual game-winning goal by Kevin Hayes and the chance was created by a nice pass from Giroux.
Hayes’ shot was pretty good, too.
It was a shame that Claude Giroux couldn’t get in the goal column in his return, but three assists in a win aren’t too shabby. It looked like Giroux would eventually break through, however, given his strong play.
In the third period, Giroux had another great chance in on Shesterkin – and beat the netminder this time – but he hit the post.
A few minutes later, he stole the puck in the offensive zone and was nearly in all alone. He got off a move and drew a penalty.
Giroux finished the game with a 68.97% Corsi For and 75.05% Expected Goals For. The Flyers dominated with Giroux on the ice at 5-on-5: 20-9 shot attempts, 10-1 shots on goal, 9-3 scoring chances (4-0 high-danger), and 2-0 goals. He also went 8-for-11 on faceoffs.
All of that earned him first star honors in his 903rd career game, matching Bill Barber for second-most in franchise history.
It was a sight to behold.
“He’s a big part of us getting this win,” Vigneault said of Giroux. “I was able to use him 5 on 5, I was able to use him obviously on the power play and threw him out there a couple of times on the PK. This was one of his better games all year.”
Claude Giroux is one of the greatest Flyers of all time. He reminded everyone of that on Wednesday night.