Four-for-Four: The ‘Talking the Talk’ Edition

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Apr 22, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Mark Streit (32) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports


It took some serious guts for Claude Giroux to ensure his team returning to Madison Square Garden with their playoff series with the Rangers tied at two games each. Though any NHL captain should have it in him to inspire his team to reach new heights, it is especially difficult for this series considering the circumstances. The Rangers, one of the few NHL teams with the capability to do so, are shutting down Giroux. They must have made it clear when the series started that, given the Flyers success linking to Giroux’s, they would not allow the Philadelphia captain to beat them. To their credit, they have shut down Giroux for a stretch that he has not seen since his early-season struggles.

The last time I can remember a team doing this to the Flyers most lethal threat was the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New Jersey Devils in 2012. Giroux was the darling of the playoffs after emerging victorious over Sidney Crosby in the opening round. Giroux even managed to score a dazzling goal in the first game of the series with New Jersey, helping the Flyers take a 1-0 lead. From there, things went downhill in a hurry. The Devils defensive approach and pestering of Giroux cranked down the postseason’s most prolific offense to a screeching halt and Giroux’s frustration was evident. He would actually miss the game that the Flyers were eliminated in for a frustration penalty as the Devils were winning their third of the four games. For how special a player Giroux can be, he is an emotional player and can let that get the best of him at times.

The Rangers shutting down of Giroux in this series has been masterful. As an observer of hockey, their ability to constantly have the correct matchup on the ice and multiple sets of eyes on the Flyers center is admirable. They continue to take every opportunity to take extra jabs at Giroux, impede his space, and essentially make his life on the ice a living Hell. Yet, for all the gripe about the zero goals Giroux has in the series against the Rangers, there are a few stats that show how far along he has developed as an all-around player.

The first is having just two penalty minutes. There were times during Friday’s nail-biter of a win, most notably after the hit levied on Giroux by New York’s Mats Zuccarello that sent the Flyers captain spinning like a whirling dervish, where a retaliation seemed almost inevitable. Yet, with the fire of frustration burning in his eyes as his constant probes toward the offensive zone continued to be negated, Giroux played his game and did not hurt his team. The Flyers should realize, at this point, that other players will have to carry the load if they expect to beat the Rangers in the series. To his credit, while he cannot help like I’m sure he would want, Giroux is not hurting his team which, in a series this tight-knit, is almost as important.

Giroux is also a +3 over the first four games. A player who has not scored a goal and has just two assists in the series has the best +/- rating on the team by two points. Though individual games often overlook the importance of the statistic, it really tends to show up over the course of playoff series. When Giroux is on the ice, the Flyers are three goals better than the Rangers. So as Giroux continues to scratch, claw, and fight for real estate on the ice with a pair of world-class defenders in his face and arguably the game’s best goalie as a last wall of defense, remember that he is doing the dirty work necessary to make sure he is helping his team any way that he can.


Were it not for Steve Mason’s scintillating showing in game four against the Rangers, the Flyers would most certainly be heading to New York in a 3-1 hole and facing elimination. The 25-year old netminder was as active in the net as one can remember over the season, and was not shy about mixing it up physically, despite returning from an upper body injury.

Ron Hextall would be proud of Mason’s liberal use of the forearm shiver with his bulky catching glove and waffle board. Still, the story of the game was some of the remarkable saves made by the netminder, with the headliner following.

Thanks to Mason, we have a series.


For a guy who has been a healthy scratch for almost the entire season, Hal Gill has a tremendous attitude when it comes to his role on the Flyers. The longtime NHL veteran, who was picked from essentially retirement, to flesh out the team’s back-end has been used sparingly this season. Most recently, Gill filled in in the final two games of the season so some of the team’s regular defensemen could get some rest. To Gill’s credit, the blue-liner played quite well and displayed the sort of hockey IQ that makes up for the departure of his talents.

In Saturday’s game, the Flyers lost the services of Nicklas Grossmann for the foreseeable future with a knee injury. Gill appears to be the logical replacement to play alongside Mark Streit, or whomever coach Craig Berbue sees fit. In true Hal Gill fashion, he provided a laughable quote that could end up being a feather in the team’s cap should their run continue.

Almost makes you forget he won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins…almost.