Former Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux has been a great addition for the Florida Panthers, helping them finish with the most regular-season points (122) in the NHL.
On Saturday, however, Giroux had his worst game as a member of the Panthers: 0 shots, 0 points, and a minus-3 rating in their 6-1 loss to host Washington in Game 3 of their playoff series. He also won only five of 12 faceoffs (42%).
Giroux, acquired for Owen Tippett and first- and third-round draft picks on March 19, and his Florida teammates will try to rebound in Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting (TBS) in D.C.
Washington leads the best-of-seven series, two games to one, so this is a critical game for Florida if it wants to avoid a first-round Eastern Conference embarrassment.
“I think we’re playing a little nervous,” star left winger Jonathan Huberdeau said.
Washington, which had 22 fewer points than Florida in the regular season, has more playoff experience than the Panthers, and it has shown.
Thus far, the Capitals have “out-competed us, out-willed us, pretty much in every puck battle and in every area,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. “Something we’re going to have to figure out here.”
They better figure it out quickly or Florida will be the latest team to win the Presidents’ Trophy (most points in the regular season) that failed to win the Stanley Cup.
The Presidents’ Trophy winner hasn’t hoisted the Cup since Chicago in 2013. Tampa Bay won the Trophy in 2019, then was swept by Columbus in the first round.
Only eight of the 34 Presidents’ Trophy winners went on and captured the Stanley Cup.
If Florida falls to the Presidents’ Trophy jinx, it will probably point to its power play as the reason. Florida’s power play, fifth (24.4%) in the NHL during the regular season, is 0 for 9 in the first three playoff games.
“Unacceptable,” said Huberdeau, mindful Washington is 4 for 12 on the power play.
Brunette said the Panthers’ compete level in the playoffs “has not been what it has been all year.”
As for Giroux, who spent 10 years as the Philadelphia Flyers’ captain, he had 23 points in 18 regular-season games with Florida. He had an assist and a goal, respectively, in Games 1 and 2 against the Caps before struggling mightily Saturday.
He had plenty of company as Florida was held to one goal for the first time since Jan. 21.
The Panthers and Giroux need to redeem themselves Monday or fall into a hard-to-overcome, three-games-to-one-deficit.