For one game, the pressure was released. The Claude Giroux of last season was back. In the first of four crucial home games for the Philadelphia Flyers, they put up five goals against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday, with Giroux registering a goal and an assist.
It snapped a six-game goal-less streak for one of the game's best players, and he enjoyed the way the team was rolling four lines and getting contributions from everyone.
"Just having fun doing it," he said.
The 25-year-old Giroux is in his first year as captain of the Flyers, in a city where wearing the C is harder than doing so most places.
Giroux already is one of the game's most competitive people, so when the Flyers struggled early in his tenure as captain that additional burden was heaped on his shoulders. It turned into frustration. It had the potential to really get ugly before Saturday's breakthrough game.
He's finding, like other young captains around the league, that the C changes things. It means more responsibility. It's a learning process that is even more magnified when you're a star in a major hockey city.
"The biggest thing, everyone always tells you not to think about it a whole lot. There are things that change a little bit, and there is added responsibility," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who is the same age as Giroux but has been Pittsburgh's captain since he was 19. "You just have to worry about playing, let your game kind of speak for yourself. The reason you have the C is by the way you lead by example. You have to take care of that first and foremost. I think that's what usually you try to do; that's what I try to do. There's always tough points. It kind of comes with the territory."
The problem in the early going was that Giroux's game wasn't speaking for itself, at least not his offensive production. There were still signs that the ultracompetitive Giroux was playing with the same fire that made him one of the game's stars, like when he dived on the ice in making a fantastic defensive play on Alex Ovechkin late in Friday's loss to the Capitals that prevented an empty-net goal.
You can tell he still wants it. It's just taking time for the production to show it. Through nine games, he has three goals and three assists. In a 48-game season, that projects to 16 goals and 16 assists -- 32 points. Considering the goal production (zero) of guys like Phil Kessel, Jarome Iginla and Henrik Sedin, it's not an especially alarming start.
But last season through nine games, he had five goals and 10 points. He established himself as a player we expect at least a point per game from, with his incredible skill and vision. Now we want at least a point every game on top of the responsibilities that come with the captaincy.
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