And a 24-year-old shall lead them.
Claude Giroux. Yes.
On the first shift of what turned out to be the clinching game of the Flyers-Penguins series, this is what the Flyers’ best player did. He leveled Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in the first 5 seconds of the game. He scored a goal at 32 seconds. And as a kind-of-nervous Wells Fargo Center erupted in celebration, turned his own celebration into an exhortation.
“Let’s go,” he yelled, to the players near him and the thousands surrounding him in a big, orange embrace. “Let’s go.”
And so, they did.
Capping off one of the most productive playoff series by a Flyers player with that goal and another assist -- giving him six goals and eight assists for the series -- Giroux led the Flyers to a 5-1 win over the Penguins. After taking the first three games of the series, and then sweating through the next two, it was Giroux who made the final afternoon his. And while we still do not know yet what team the Flyers will be playing in the second round, this remains an emphatic statement by a young, rebuilt team -- and by its unquestioned leader.
It would be unfair to label this as Giroux’s emergence in the post-season. The truth is, that happened 2 years ago when Giroux scored 10 goals and had 11 assists in 23 games as the Flyers marched to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Chicago. But this has been somehow different, better.
The start of that game will not soon be forgotten, not can it be understated. On some level, the Flyers themselves had to be as nervous as the crowd seemed to be. This is a young team, after all, and to see a 3-0 lead in the series shrink to 3-2 had to be at least a little bit unnerving. A bad start would have just fed into whatever bad thoughts were already in place.
But Giroux made sure that did not happen.
With that, on to wherever.