Get Ready for the Rant! Flyers Downed by Panthers, 3-2 in the Shootout >

by Michael DeNicola

Friday, Feb. 08, 2013 -

Going through scoring droughts is one thing. It's entirely another to go through frustrating spells where your best forwards refuse to get greedy when they need to be. 

I'm obviously talking about our Captain, Claude Giroux. 

No, 'G' is not untouchable. He's wearing that crest, he represents this town, he is certainly open to criticism. Claude cannot holdout on a shot until he gets to his spot right along the left faceoff circle. And even then he is looking "pass first" rather than putting the puck on net to either capitalize or create second-chance rebounds.

Watching Tom Sestito score our lone two goals on Tuesday night was surprising and exciting, but for only an hour or two. After that, you sat back and said to yourself, "Holy shit, Sestito had our two goals?"

That's not a dig on #32. Ya gotta love the guy's enthusiasm, and you certainly have to hand him props for potting his first pucks since 2010. But it's scary to grasp that a 4th line toughguy -- who spends the majority of the season scratched in the press box -- is your only skater lighting the lamp. 

Fast-forward two nights later, and it's almost like we're watching the same shortage of goals from the front lines we need most. To give you an example; in last night's 3rd stanza, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere had a 2-on-1 opportunity on Theodore's net. Briere was bringing the puck up ice, over the blue line and into Panthers' territory. Giroux skated in on Danny's left, no one contesting but a lone defenseman splitting the two. Briere's shooting lane opened up 10-feet from the net, and instead of labeling the puck top-shelf, he decides to get cute and force a pass through the slot on a crashing Claude Giroux. 

Needless to say, the pass was checked and the chance was neutralized. A 2-on-1 opportunity from our two biggest offensive threats, and a shot wasn't even recorded. Do you understand how pathetic that is?

I don't want to come off like I'm worried about Giroux or turning against him. I am absolutely not. It's just incredibly infuriating to see our most lethal weapon disappear through the season's inception. And I am not harping solely on his lack of trigger-pulling. Giroux has been turning pucks over. Easily losing possession. He's almost lost his snarl. His grit. We were expecting that leader from "The First Shift", and instead we're all witnessing a Giroux who's played like he's on the bubble. 

You wonder if he's still injured? Are his wrists not 100%? Well, I think his wrists are just fine. I mean, we have seen Giroux take those one-timers from the left circle, and those slappers look beautiful. Giroux's tape sends the puck traveling faster than a speed-dating Taylor Swift.

"We need those points," Giroux said. "We need that shootout win. We've got to get it done. We're a desperate team right now."

But I don't want to come across like someone blaming Giroux for our Club's insufficiency. There's plenty of disappointment to be distributed. 

Coming off a very positive 2011-12 season with the Flyers, sophomore forward Brayden Schenn entered the abbreviated schedule riding on a wave of momentum. Through the lockout, Schenner had been a standout star on the Adirondack Phantoms, and seemingly lost no fire over the NHL work stoppage. 

So far this season, Brayden Schenn has been an abysmal letdown. He began on Giroux's right wing, eleven games later..... he's demoted to the checking line on a roster that's riddled with IR problems. 

Contests come and go, and not once has Schenn's name been brought into positive light. Hell, a searchlight can't find him on the ice. He's missing checks, he's absent in prime scoring areas, and -- much like Giroux -- Brayden's lost possession of the puck much too easily.

What was once the League's #1 prospect in the CHL, Brayden Schenn is skating himself into a trade. But given his performance lately, the stock is plummeting and I'm sure outsiders' interest is weighed heavier on more crucial pieces like a Sean Couturier. 

I'll say this about Schenn, though; when he became a permanent member of our big Club's roster last season, he had a slow start. Unlike this year, Brayden was constantly finding himself on the injury list. It was a case of unfortunate timing. Once he gained his legs under him, the 21-year old forward finished out the 2011-12 year crashing creases, banging bodies, and scoring 18-points.

Could this just be another slow start? Here's a more important question -- Will he make a habit of starting out his seasons slowly?

Injuries are part of the game. It hurts sports teams, but it births opportunities as a silver lining. Our role players and mid-liners have stepped up and pulled their weight. Bryzgalov is giving us exactly what we paid for back in 2011 when he signed on-board with Philadelphia. The particular skaters who carry much more expectation must begin playing through the obstacles. This Flyers team is beating itself.

Our Atlantic Division continues to win. The Devils, the Penguins, the Rangers, and even the Islanders, are all threatening to keep the Flyers under that 8th Seeded ceiling. Giroux said it himself, "We're a desperate team."

Desperation calls for desperate measures. 

It's time for a wakeup call. Peter Laviollete once said, "Take your first shift. You'll get it. Earn the second one." Right now, it's time our stars begin earning their ice time. It's time our stars begin earning their spots on the top lines. 

No, Giroux's past two seasons don't transition to this one and buy him a permanent seat on the ventral combo. This team needs wins, and, more importantly, this team needs shots taken from its leading offensemen. The backchecking, the forechecking and our zone defense have been pretty effective through the first quarter of the season. It's time the bulbs on our scoreboard take a beating. 

As of now, I'm seeing pucks being put on net by players like Matt Read and Tye McGinn. Two skaters who've gotten greedy when the time calls for it. Is it a surprise that Read leads our team in goals-scored? Hell no. And why? 'Cause the kid labels many for the twine. 

McGinn has been a sensational curveball. Despite putting in a hefty performance in camp, Tye had been sent back down to Glens Falls prior to the season beginning. But with the injuries suffered from Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds, McGinn found himself back with the big Club. Since then, the rookie's earned his promotion to the first line with Giroux and Briere, and so far.... he's easily been the best skater of the trio.

Sean Couturier hasn't delivered much offensively, but we're all aware that the sophomore's strengths exist on his forechecking, poke-checking and backchecking. He's a defensive-offenseman who's effective on the board tussles and gaining possession.

My recommendation is clear -- keep McGinn on that first line, and bring up Cooter and Read to man the center and right wing. (Honorable mention goes to Mike Knuble)

What? You're looking at me like I'm nuts. What's the worst that can happen? We don't score goals?

I'm not making a permanent suggestion. Like I mentioned before, this squad needs a wakeup call. This roster needs to begin earning its ice time. You'd have to be stupid crazy to scratch Claude Giroux, which is NOT what I'm implying. But a demotion could spark the beast within #28. We know it's in there somewhere. We know Giroux's a leader, a monster, a fucking superior force. If he needs a fire lit beneath him, now's the time to take out the matchbox. 

And don't give me this "curse of the Flyers Captain" horseshit. Giroux's captaincy is not a broken mirror. It's a symbol of how this team plays. How it has always played. Claude's deserved that 'C' on his sweater, and it is time he uses it as his motivation, and his teammates' motivation. 

I'm almost finished, don't quit on me now, readers. 

As long as we're on the topic of players' solecisms, I'd like to draw attention to Bryzgalov's frailty in the shootout. 

Ilya has been a wall all season long. It's tough to draw criticism on this team's best player in 2012-13. We know Bryz is wretched in 1-on-1 situations, and the shootout. Last night proved no different where the franchise twinesitter allowed two-for-two pucks by his guard during that abortion of a skills competition. 

But much like Eagles quarterback Mike Vick and sliding, you just cannot teach an old dog new tricks (pun not intended, believe me). Ilya Bryzgalov is awful, and will always be awful, in net during shootouts. 

Does that mean last night's loss should be blamed on him? Uh, not at all. We still had 65-minutes of regulation and overtime hockey to beat Theodore more than two damn times. Especially against Florida's lackluster defense. 

This all just falls back on the hands of our offense and the dry scoring well. 

Take a look at the standings, gentlemen. It's a tight race, and it'll remain that way through the next 37-tilts. Now's the time to build speed and momentum, but that begins with winning the games you SHOULD win. Last night should have never been 1-point. It shoulda been 2. 

Let's get it. 

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