Philadelphia Flyers looking to captain Claude Giroux to lead charge against Washington Capitals

PHILADELPHIA -- At this point of the season especially, a team's best player needs to be at his best.

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux needs to be that guy -- now.

If not, the Flyers' season will end in Game 5 against the Washington Capitals on Friday at Verizon Center. The high-flying Capitals own a 3-1 lead in this Eastern Conference first-round series. Things appeared bleak for Philadelphia when Washington gained a 3-0 lead and Giroux was held without a point.

He finally registered an assist onShayne Gostisbehere's goal during a 2-1 win in Game 4. Bottom line, the Flyers need more Giroux.

"If they have any chance, he needs to be the reason," a Western Conference scout said. "He makes them go. He's an elite player with great compete. He's at his best when he is engaged physically. He's very creative with great puck skills and vision. Love his passion and compete level."

He's one of those players, the type of leader, whom the rest of the team feeds off and gains motivation from the way he plays and the way he acts in the room.

"He's our captain, he's our leader and he takes a lot upon himself," first-year Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "He takes a lot on his shoulders when things don't go the right way for our hockey team. So, for him to get off to a great start last night, I think was a good signal for our hockey team."

In the locker room after Game 4, Giroux, 28, sat in the corner and appeared mentally drained. No one would have guessed the Flyers just won a game by the concerned look on his face. Part of that concern was for teammate Scott Laughton, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he slammed back-first into the boards during the first period. Laughton spent the night in the hospital and was released Thursday afternoon.

Giroux also seemed uneasy with the fact that he hasn't contributed much offensively, and the Flyers remain on the brink of elimination. He feels personally responsible for his team's lack of success and it's genuine.

"I just want to win," he said. "So, you do put pressure on yourself. It's not bad to do that. I think it's good to make sure you push yourself to be the best you can be and do the best you can."

In Game 4, Hakstol moved Brayden Schenn up to play with Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. It worked and that unit probably will remain the same for Game 5.

"Well, these guys, they've played a lot of minutes together this year," Hakstol said. "They've got some good chemistry. It's a little bit different look with Brayden on that line rather thanJake [Voracek]. I thought both of the combinations worked well. The [Michael] Rafflline was good [in Game 4] and I thought Brayden immediately brought some physicality andsustained his play through the 60 minutes."

That line needs to be more dynamic in Game 5. Giroux needs to lead.

"We did play pretty well together," Giroux said. "We had chemistry. We feed off each other. It's fun to play with those two guys. They can skate. They can make plays. Hopefully we can get more chemistry."

It also hasn't helped that the Capitals are matching up well against Giroux's line, especially in Washington, and that won't change in Game 5.

Giroux has 61 games of postseason experience, with 23 goals and 39 assists for 62 points. He was a catalyst during the team's Stanley Cup run in 2010 before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. He was outstanding during the playoffs that spring, posting 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points, and a plus-7, in 23 games.

"He's a very smart and gritty player," a Western Conference GM said. "I really like him. He loves the half wall and is very dangerous. [Appears] a little dinged up."

Given Giroux's lack of production this postseason, it wouldn't be a surprise if he's dealing with an injury, because most players who reach the playoffs are hampered by something after a long and arduous season. He wears that "C" on his sweater for a reason and if the Flyers have any chance of extending this series against the Capitals, Giroux needs to be that guy.

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