Some observations from the Flyers’ wildly entertaining 4-3 win Wednesday night over Boston at the Wells Fargo Center:
Like Mike Schmidt when he played with the Phillies and was frequently booed because of his strikeouts and a laid-back demeanor that some misread as laziness, Flyers captain Claude Giroux is an underappreciated superstar.
All Giroux does is produce and lead by example, but the Twitterverse criticizes him because of the team’s lack of playoff success, and if I had a dollar for every person who called him a poor leader, I could buy a beachfront home in Avalon.
Again, all Giroux does is produce. Better than almost every player in the NHL.
In the last nine seasons, only Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane have more points than Giroux. Oh, and he leads the NHL in assists — making him the most unselfish player of his era — and power-play points during that span.
On Wednesday, in the comeback win over talented Boston, Giroux reached a milestone as he became just the second player in franchise history with 500 career assists. A legend named Bobby Clarke is the other player to accomplish the feat.
Giroux had two assists, including a ridiculous pass to Oskar Lindblom after he picked up a loose puck just inside the blue line and somehow saw the left winger and quickly hit him in stride.
“It feels great,” Giroux, 31, said about reaching 500 assists and helping the Flyers win for the third time in four games. “I’ve been lucky to play with really good players and lucky to be able to give the puck to all these players. It’s a great accomplishment, but we just have to keep going here.”
They call the diminutive center “G” because of his last name. It also stands for greatness.
Sadly, like Schmidt, he won’t be truly appreciated until after he retires some day and his sensational play is realized.
Sean Couturier’s first regular-season hat trick and Carter Hart’s 39 saves got most of the headlines, but the penalty kill also played a key role in Wednesday’s win.
The PK allowed one goal in 9:25 of shorthanded time, and it blanked Boston on a five-minute power play that started late in the second period. The Bruins managed just three shots on that PP.
In the first 21 games, the Flyers’ penalty kill was awful, as it was successful only 68.5 percent of the time. In the last 26 games, it has been successful at about an 84 percent clip.
“We changed it up a little bit in the zone, but the biggest thing I think is when they enter the zone, we don’t give them much. We’re more aggressive, and everyone’s on the same page,” Scott Laughton said. “I think at the start of the year we would have one guy go and everyone sitting back, and now when one guy goes, we have everyone going and we’re creating turnovers and not letting them set up. That’s the biggest thing [because] once a power play sets up like that with all that talent over there, it’s going to be hard to stop.”
Ivan Provorov (6:06), Radko Gudas (5:55), Couturier (5:25), Giroux (4:35), Oskar Lindblom (3:44), Laughton (3:36), and Robert Hagg (3:30) received the most penalty-kill time Wednesday.
When Anthony Stolarz is ready to return in about two weeks, the Flyers could consider sending Hart down to the Phantoms.
But there’s no way that should happen.
Forget that he is just 20. Hart, who has a 2.72 goals-against average and .915 save percentage, gives the Flyers their best chance to win games, even when Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth return from injuries.
Yes, Hart’s played in only 11 NHL games, but the Flyers appear to have a future gem in the nets.
When was the last time you could say that?
The Flyers had a season-high 30 blocked shots, including seven by Hagg and five by Provorov.