Two weeks ago, fans were ringing the Wells Fargo Center with chants of “M-V-P” for captain Claude Giroux, who almost single-handedly helped the Flyers get to these playoffs.
Less than two weeks later, those cheers have derisively turned to “E-A-G-L-E-S,” as the Flyers fell into a 3-1 series hole with another lopsided loss to the Penguins. This time, Pittsburgh won, 5-0, on Wednesday.
Giroux hasn’t been the only problem. The Flyers have been outscored 17-1 in their three losses. Goaltender Brian Elliott was yanked for the second time. Scott Laughton had miscues that led to the Pens’ first two goals. Wayne Simmonds’ game has so deteriorated that he must be hurt.
And, newly minted Selke Award finalist Sean Couturier did not play after sustaining a freak injury during Tuesday’s practice.
Except for Game 2, which the Flyers won, 5-1, and the first period of Game 3, the Flyers have been thoroughly outplayed in all three zones. There are plenty of numbers that would reinforce that, but the most troubling is 225.
Giroux has gone 11 consecutive postseason games without a goal. His ice time in that span is 225 minutes, 46 seconds. And the goal he scored before that stretch was an empty-netter in Game 6 in 2014. The Flyers lost that series to the Rangers in seven games.
Simmonds also hasn’t scored in 11 consecutive playoff games. Jake Voracek’s drought is eight.
The raucous April 7 afternoon when Giroux notched a hat trick in that must-win game at the end of this regular season is a distant memory.
“It’s frustrating,” Giroux said. “We’re battling hard as a team. It’s just not good enough right now. The next game is real soon [Friday]. We need to figure it out.”
Giroux was a minus-3 on the night and is minus-7 in the series. Midway through Game 4, he and Voracek were beaten to a puck behind their own net by Sidney Crosby, who neatly tucked it past backup goalie Michal Neuvirth to give the Penguins a 4-0 lead. Crosby, who broke Mario Lemieux’s team record for career postseason points, was the game’s first star.
Pittsburgh has won the last two championships and sure looks ready to sip from the Stanley Cup again.
“You want to help the team any way you can,” Giroux of his scoring drought. “I’m frustrated. A lot of guys are frustrated. But you can’t play frustrated against this team.”
|Claude Giroux statistics||Flyers rec.||G||A||Pts.||+/-|
|Last 11 regular season games||7-1-3||8||11||19||+10|
|Last 11 playoff playoff games||3-8||0||2||2||-9|
The road generally was filled with potholes this season for the Penguins, who were the only team in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a losing record away from home — except when they visit the Wells Fargo Center.
They’ve won their two regular-season games and two playoff games in South Philly by a combined score of 20-4, racking up five goals each time.
“[I’m] trying to score goals here, trying to get to the net,” Simmonds said. “But it’s got to be everyone working together to get those opportunities here … . In this series, if they’ve got one [goal], they’ll get two. They’ve gotten them in bunches. We’ve got to find a way to counteract their attack.”
Giroux’s frustration has been noticeable. He snapped down his stick after getting thrown out of a face-off in the second period. When a shot attempt from about 10 feet out was calmly scooped by Pens goalie Matt Murray in the third period, the Flyers’ captain banged his stick against the glass.
Entering these playoffs, home teams that lost Game 4 to go down 3-1 have lost 87 percent of the series, according to Hockey-Reference. How many of those victorious 13 percent were so thoroughly outplayed through four games?
“When we get our confidence, we can be a streaky team,” Giroux said. “If we get one win, we come back home … . Somehow, we need to get our confidence back and go from there.”