Claude Giroux is the first Flyer sice Eric Lindros in 1996 to score 100 points in a season. And he did it in style.
The Flyers' captain finished second in the entire NHL with 102 points six behind Connor McDavid's 108 thanks in large part to a spectacular hat trick on the final game of the season. In the Flyers' playoff clinching win against the Rangers, Giroux put a fiery punctuation mark to a season that showed at 30-years-old, G is among the best forwards in hockey. He is red hot heading into Philadelphia's playoff series against the Penguins, having scored 45 points in the last 33 games. He's also been a clubhouse leader for a team in transition from an old guard to a young and hungry squad.
With more assists than everyone in the league save for Blake Wheeler, with whom he is tied (at 68) and more goals than superstar Sidney Crosby (34), Giroux should be a serious contender for the Hart Trophy. He's an all around player, one who also has the third best faceoff percentage of players taking more than 40 draws.
"Well, for me, he’s never needed the validation," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "but if this is the exclamation point tonight that he put on his season in the most important game of our season, doesn’t say that to the outside world, I don’t know what would. He doesn’t need that kinda validation inside of our dressing room or amongst his teammates, but he’s done it all this year and he’s done it under pressure and that for me, that says a lot about him and who he is and what he’s all about."
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Giroux finished fourth in voting in 2012 when he scored 93 points, and third in 2014 when he scored 86. His 2017-18 numbers in goals and assists are both career highs. It's the second year in a row he's been healthy enough to play in all 82 games and posted a plus-28 rating, best in his NHL lifetime — and good for one of the top 10 plus/minus ratings in hockey. However, yet again gambling sites have Giroux as a longshot at 20-1 odds, well behind favorites Nathan MacKinnon and Taylor Hall according to bodog.com.
"G is an unbelievable player," Giroux's teammate Sean Couturier — who also had a breakout year — said. "He deserves everything he’s getting this year and definitely deserves to be in the MVP conversation. I don’t know how some people don’t put him there. It’s crazy, he steps up his game every time the game is bigger. That’s the kind of guy he is, it shows his character and he’s our leader."
If intangibles and play under pressure count for Hart Trophy voters, Giroux should be closer to the top of the list, if not the top. As his stats suggest, he more or less took the entire team on his shoulders and carried them to the playoffs while making his line one of the most feared in the entire league. He helped Philly shrug off several slumps (one of them a 10-game losing streak) and hang on to keep a Stanley Cup dream alive.
Flyers fans knew that Saturday, chanting "MVP, MVP" to Giroux as the seconds ticked away in a dominating 5-0 victory to end all doubt about postseason chances. But as he has his entire career, Giroux deflected his success and credited his teammates.
"It's great it just shows the kind team we are and most of the games this year were on the same page," Giroux said when asked about eclipsing the 100-point milestone. "Everybody playing together and guys doing what they do best. I don’t know, I don’t know what to say anymore."
G doesn't have to say it — the Philly fans will say it for him. And whether or not he is able to capture the Hart Trophy this offseason, you can bet Flyers fans will be chanting for their MVP again next week, when the Flyers host the Penguins in Game 3 of the first round Sunday.
The series against Pittsburgh begins in Western PA Wednesday, at 7 p.m.