By Peter Gleason
There is no other way to describe the Flyers’ elephant in the room.
Their captain Claude Giroux has been a bust in this openeing round series against the Washington Capitals.
For the third consecutive game, Giroux was held without a goal, without an assist and without a significant impact.
Though recognized for his face-off expertise, Giroux lost 54 percent of those in a Game 2 loss. While he was contributing some effort on the penalty-kill, he was a minus-1 through the first 40 minutes. If he was helping, he was not helping much.
“It’s all about second chances, screened shots, all the greasy kind of goals,” Giroux had said, before the Flyers’ 6-1 loss. “I think the message is in the room how we want to play and we have to make sure we follow it.”
The Flyers are not big enough or fast enough to out-greasy-goal the Capitals. Whenever they attempt to muscle toward Braden Holtby, they are forced so far the outside that they are in a spot where smoking is permitted. The series is three games old and it’s the Flyers’ season that seems to be slipping on grease.
By the time Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on the power play early in the third, benefitting from the puck bouncing oddly off the boards, the Flyers were down to one answer. Their best players – not just Giroux, but Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Shayne Gostisbehere, their No. 1 power-play unit – were going to have to create the kind of offense that no coach can design.
“There are no major changes we want to make,” Hakstol said, earlier in the day. “It’s the little things. Their goaltender has been very good. What do you do to try to change it? Get a little more traffic. Find a rebound around the top of the crease.
“A bunch of little things.”
The Capitals have scored seven power-play goals in a series that well could be over by late Wednesday night. The Flyers have had 13 power-play opportunities and have not scored.
“There are always things that you can look at, address and try to do a little bit better,” Hakstol said before the game. “I thought we had some good looks. Not ‘thought’; I know we did. We had some good looks. But again, much the same as five-on-five, we’ve got to do a little bit better and find a way to get one in the back of the net.”
That’s the job of the best players. That’s the job the Flyers’ best players have failed to do.