This was by far the most promoted series in opening round and it was everything it was supposed to be, and more. From chirps to slashes, open ice hits to line brawls, miraculous saves to high scoring pond hockey style games, this series had it all. Amongst the melee, high scores, and loud crowds, there were 2 stories that came to the forefront. The league’s top superstar losing his mind and, in turn his driving edge, while another player ascended into elite superstar status.
If you know me in real life, you will already know of my hatred of Sidney Crosby. Although I may, at times, go overboard on it, it comes from a mixture of my love for the Flyers, and the perhaps unattainable standards or conduct set by former faces of the NHL like Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. Some might argue that it is unfair to judge Sidney based on this, but it comes with the territory of being the worlds most talented and mass marketed player to maybe ever play. One thing is for sure, none of the aforementioned former superstars ever conducted themselves the way Crosby does.
From the moment Sidney stepped on NHL ice, and even during his Junior career, he has been known to whine and complain about the attention that he attracts from opposing players and teams. He isn’t the first player to be matched up toughly or to get an extra shot after a whistle, but he may be the worst at dealing with it, a flaw that the Flyers exploited in this series.I have been vocal, at times maybe even a bit obnoxious, about Crosby’s on and off ice actions, so you can imagine the field day I’ve had with Sidney’s first round antics. Screaming at refs, hacking and slashing players in retaliation, whining to the media, Sid did it all. But it was in Game 3 in Philadelphia that Sid really outdid himself and surprised even me. Obviously the Flyers had gotten under his skin that game, and Sid let it all out and finally silenced his defenders The NHL’s poster boy viciously slashed the trapper hand of Ilya Bryzgalov, as seen here. Crosby can clearly see that the puck was covered. His reaction not only is extremely late, but the puck is not even close to being loose, and it almost seems more of an attempt to injure than to knock the puck free as he slashes the trapper three times.
Although I thought this was a little bit funny, Crosby cowardly knocks Voracek’s glove away when he bends over to pick it up after a scrum.
Sidney picks a fight with a completely unsuspecting Kimmo Timonen, a 37-year-old 13-year NHL veteran who has been in a whopping 2 career fights. Sidney didn’t even finish the fight because a teammate stepped in for him.
Later, after grabbing on to Giroux in a scrum with no refs nearby, Crosby wanted absolutely nothing to do with him and not a punch was thrown. Then when the linesman got in the middle of them, he proceeded to cheapshot Giroux and take him to the ice.
Oh Sidney, thank you so much for backing up everything I have ever said about you, proving to the world in one game that you are a cowardly, classless, whining, disrespectful, dirty, and spoiled little brat. Oh wait, there is more? In his post game interview, Sidney acted like a 7-year-old child disagreeing on why he was put in the corner on a time-out.
The Flyers were able to knock Sid off of his game and it was a contributing factor to their series victory. However credit must be given where it is due. Claude Giroux (3rd in NHL regular season scoring) had the task of being matched up directly against Crosby. Throughout the series they faced-off at the dot, in scrums, in fights, and in trying to lead their teams to victory with their offensive talent. No one could have expected this to be Giroux’s coming out party.
While being matched up with the NHL’s top player, Giroux was not only able to keep Crosby to even strength points, but he was also able to amount an NHL-leading 14 points in 6 games. Giroux has said that he loves to play in pressure games and he proved it time and time again leading the Flyers not only on the ice, but also off the ice with his leadership. With Flyers captain Chris Pronger still suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome, the Flyers were without a defined leader, until now.
This young team will need Giroux to be a motivator and tempo setter moving forward if they want to make a deep run at Lord Stanley’s Cup. His on-ice leadership was on display in the first shift of game 6 when just seconds in he leveled Sidney Crosby knocking him off the puck and 30 seconds later scoring the games first. Giroux had requested to be on the ice for the first shift, and he didn’t disappoint. After the game he pointed out key unsung heroes like Pavel Kubina who were doing the intangibles necessary to beat a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins. Giroux will undoubtedly be the Flyers next captain, which could happen as early as next season if Pronger cannot return to action.
Only time will tell if Giroux can keep up his offence down the stretch, but he certainly made a statement in the opening round series against the Penguins. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette referred to Giroux, not Crosby, as the greatest player in the world, and at that moment in time, he may not have been wrong. Giroux facing off against Evgeni Malkin (NHL regular season leading scorer) and Sidney Crosby was able to put up 14 points while Malkin and Crosby only combined for 16. So why wouldn’t Giroux be considered as the worlds top player. Personally, I would have rated him as a top 5 talent, maybe at number 3.
Giroux will continue to write his story as the Flyers move on in their quest for hockey’s holy grail. One thing to think about is that Chris Pronger will not return in these playoffs and the Flyers currently skate with three assistant captains, no one wearing the “C” on their chest. Traditionally it is the captain who receives the Stanley Cup first from NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman.. Without a captain you would think there would be a shortlist of players on the Flyers roster who could get the opportunity of that honor if the Flyers can go the distance. I would imagine at the top of that list is the emerging superstar Claude Giroux.
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