[the_ad id=”102819″]

It was only 44 days ago. A month-and-a-half. No time really. But that’s when even some of the most ardent Claude Giroux supporters had to wonder if his season was slipping away from him.

Even I, who has fought with fans ad nauseam on Twitter defending Giroux as a surefire Hall of Fame hockey player, had to admit on the evening of Jan. 16 that there might be something a little off with the Flyers captain this season.

The next few games after that last post did nothing to quell those doubts.

From Jan. 18 through Feb. 6 the Flyers went 4-1-1, but Giroux only had three assists, and went four consecutive games without a point, ending with a thud in a minus-3 performance during the Flyers’ 5-0 home loss to New Jersey, in what could arguably have been both the team’s and Giroux’s worst performance of the season.

But, then something happened after that game.

I’m not sure if it was the embarrassment of that loss, or coach Alain Vigneault publicly doubling down on the Flyers making the playoffs assuming their veteran players lead the way or simply Giroux deciding enough was enough, and it was time to flip the switch, but since then, Giroux has been everything the Flyers always expect him to be.

In the last 10 games Giroux has six goals and eight assists for 14 points, including a pair of tallies, one of which was the game-winner, in the Flyers’ 5-2 dismantling of the scorching-hot New York Rangers Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.

And it’s no surprise that the Flyers have gone 8-2-0 in those 10 games, have matched a season-best five-game winning streak and have now leap-frogged Pittsburgh into second place in the very tough Metropolitan Division.

“We’re only looking up,” said Giroux, when asked about how he looks at the Division standings. He sounds confident. He’s been laughing and smiling – a lot. It’s almost like these past three weeks have been cathartic for the Flyers captain, reminding him just how much fun playing the sport of hockey can be.

The only thing that has been a faster turnaround in South Philly is the decision to not open a safe injection site.

And it wasn’t just scoring a couple goals against the Rangers, or compiling a high number of points in three weeks worth of games that has changed for Giroux. It’s been more than that. Since being moved back to left wing and being reunited with old friends Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek on the Flyers top line, Giroux has several shifts in a game where he looks like the best player on the ice.

He’s back to dominating. He’s back to creating. He’s back to being one of the most dangerous players in the game. And even if he’s no longer the best player on his own team – Couturier has quietly accepted the passing of that torch – he can still be a difference-maker, and is doing it.

“Our top boys were top performers tonight,” Vigneault said after the New York win. “They showed up, they played big, they made some plays, they capitalized on a couple of the other teams mistakes. I’ve said this a couple times there, you need your top players to lead the way and I thought Coots’s line tonight with G and Jake certainly did that.”

Aside from Giroux’s two goals, Voracek tied a career-high with four assists and Couturier had a goal and an assist. Eight points from one line in a game is, well, a lot.

“I think we are supporting each other a lot better,” Couturier said. “We are moving. We are going to the net hard. We are getting pucks to the net also. Being a little simpler in our game, and tonight it paid off.

“I think it’s something we want to do or want to be every game. But sometimes it is part of the game- it goes one way or the other. It is going against top lines and it is not always easy. But when we have depth and other guys get going, other lines going, it obviously puts a lot less pressure on the team. We just need to keep going all four lines. I think everyone is contributing in different ways.”

The veteran trio started it off with Voracek’s quick thinking after the puck died behind the net because it hit a broken stick and his power move to the front of the net knowing the Rangers would be caught off guard, and then feeding Coots, who, as he said, was going to the net hard.

Then, came the two Giroux goals. First, the game-winner:

Oh, hey, cool statistical note SportsNet.

Then came the insurance marker for Giroux:


After the game, Giroux, who was hosting 15-year-old Blake Steigauf for a couple days as part of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, was playful with the media and Steigauf during his media availability, making Steigauf answer questions, and also playfully chirping him, like he would any other of his teammates.

It was one of those rare times when Giroux lets his guard down in front of the cameras and lets his true personality show – that of a good leader, and a truly funny and all-around good guy.

Afterwards, he gave Steigauf a hug, and told him they would talk soon, as he was making the difference in the life of a special Flyers fan off the ice.

And making a difference on the ice for a lot of other Flyers fans as well.

Speaking of chirping….

This video is great stuff:

From conversations I had in the locker room, apparently even veteran goalie Brian Elliott was in on the chirping of Brendan Lemieux at this moment, although you can’t see him behind Hayes.

But Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton were in his face – and it wasn’t just at this moment.

One player in the locker room told me they were in Lemieux’s ear “the entire game, start to finish.”

Something tells me it’ll be more of the same with him in New York Sunday.

Here’s a great photo of it from SB Nation’s awesome photographer Heather Barry:

But this wasn’t even the best reaction to the Rangers by someone wearing a Flyers jersey at this game.

That’s because this kid in the Giroux jersey behind the glass wins the night.:

The best part about it is at the end, it seems like his parent/guardian is wearing a Rangers jersey. Wonder what it’s like watching a game at home with those two.

[the_ad id=”103880″]