Giroux is the go-to guy for rival Philadelphia
VOORHEES, N.J. — Claude Giroux can spin a puck from the blade of his right-handed stick. He can fire it. He can lift it. He can manipulate its direction and pace.
None of this surprises Jaromir Jagr, the eighth-leading scorer in NHL history.
What impressed Jagr, though, is that Giroux works almost as hard as he does — and Jagr is a legendary rink rat, often stepping away only so that he can run for hours while wearing a weighted vest.
Jagr is an iconic player for the Flyers.
Giroux, born two years before Jagr was drafted in 1990, is Philadelphia's best player — and not just because his 93 points were third among all players during the regular season.
"He's got the talent, the vision, he can make the plays," Jagr said of Giroux on Tuesday after the Flyers' final off-day practice before the start of a Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Penguins.
"But there are probably 10 guys with that, whatever he's got. What impresses me is that he wants to get better every day, and if you have that kind of will, sooner or later you're going to be the top guy."
Giroux, 24, has scored 243 points in 285 regular-season games with the Flyers. However, he is at least fourth on the list — perhaps fifth, depending on what phrase Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov opts to utter on any given day — of players people discuss when dissecting the best-of-seven series that opens tonight with Game 1 at Consol Energy Center.
Giroux is not Bryzgalov or Jagr, or Penguins megastars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
He is, however, an emerging force of a two-way stud, a defensively responsible scorer who has posted 15 points in 19 career games against the Penguins, including eight in five contests this season.
"Obviously his skill stands out on the ice, but what you really appreciate when you work with him on a daily basis is his competitiveness," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's one of the hardest-working guys, passionate about winning.
"He's really developed into a good leader on this team."
Giroux is not shying away from shouldering the bulk of the responsibility to lead the Flyers past the Penguins. He said Monday that this postseason was his first as the Flyers' "go-to guy."
In past postseasons, those guys were centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, but neither was a reputable dressing-room darling, and the Flyers shipped both out of Philadelphia in offseason trades. They could part with those impact scorers because Giroux seemingly is a blueprint cornerstone player — consistent on the ice, composed off it.
The latter was on display yesterday when he assessed the pressure he faces this spring.
"I don't think there's bad pressure," he said. "If there's pressure, that means people expect you to do good, and I want to do good. I don't see myself as a guy who doesn't show up for the playoffs.
"I want to be a guy who when it comes to the playoffs, he steps up his game."