Throughout Training Camp 2.0, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault talked about his veterans wanting to excel in the postseason and improving their legacies.
Well, for Claude Giroux, it was a mixed bag.
For the first time since he was named the franchise’s 19th captain in 2013, the Flyers won a playoff series. That was the good news.
The bad news: Giroux again played below expectations in the playoffs, scoring just one goal in 16 postseason games.
“Obviously, it’s no secret. I would have liked to have played better,” Giroux said in a conference call with reporters Friday. “As the playoffs went on, I started feeling a little better. It’s a unique tournament we had: You’re off for a couple months and then go straight to playoffs. It was the same for everybody, but it just felt like it took me a little longer to kind of get going.”
The Flyers beat Montreal in six games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, then lost to the Islanders in the conference semifinals, four games to three.
Giroux, 32, believes the playoff experience will help the young players on the team and that next season the Flyers will have their best chance to win a Stanley Cup since he arrived in 2007-08.
“I think we took a huge step forward from last year,” he said. “We’re very disappointed we didn’t move on to the conference finals. We thought we had a team that was able to go further … We have to keep moving forward, keep building on this. We love our team. We like the pieces we have and we’re all pretty excited about next year.”
Giroux, who had 21 goals and 53 points in 69 regular-season games, said this team is different than the ones that lost in the opening round in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
“The other years we made the playoffs and we lost in the first round, we didn’t have the depth we have right now,” said Giroux, who likes the blend of veterans and youth on the current team. “… We just like the mix we have in the locker room.”
Giroux is also hopeful Nolan Patrick, who missed most of the season with a migraine disorder, and Oskar Lindblom can return and bolster the lineup. Lindblom missed most of the season after he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in December. He played in the final two playoff games.
“Nolan has been though a lot. You don’t want to mess with head problems,” Giroux said "We want him back in the lineup, but we don’t want him before he’s at 100 percent. He’s going to have a long career, He’s going to be a great player. I still remember practices we had this year and he came on the ice and some of the new coaches were kind of looking at us like, ‘This kid is pretty good.’ We want him to get healthy and he’s going to be a big piece for us this year.
“And Oskar’s whole story is just amazing for him to come back as early as he did and the way he played. He’s got so much courage. Everybody respects Oskar so much.”
As for this year’s playoffs, the Flyers were outplayed in several games by lowly Montreal, and they were fortunate to get to Game 7 against an Islanders team that had a huge territorial edge in the series.
“Against the Islanders, I think early on in the series, we played all right,” Giroux said. “We found a way to win one of those games and then when we were down 3-1, I think Games 5 and 6 were our best two games. Everybody was playing hard, playing the right way. Obviously, we won those games in overtime and, at the same time, we battled hard to see that Game 7.”
The Islanders dominated Game 7, winning, 4-0.
Earlier this week, coach Alain Vigneault said Giroux needed to “really work at his conditioning” this offseason to slow down the again process. Giroux said he may tweak some of his workouts and that he will be ready.
“At the end of the day, I think every time camp starts I’m in great shape and I expect the same” this year, he said.
The NHL has not said when camp will start or when the 2020-21 season will begin. It originally said the season would start Dec. 1, but backed off that statement recently.
“It’s a little bit more difficult” to get ready for the season when you don’t know the dates and can’t plan your workouts accordingly, Giroux said. “But you just have to adapt yourself” and be ready.
Being away from their families and living and playing in the Toronto “bubble” wasn’t easy for the Flyers, especially those with recently born babies and young children.
Giroux, Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk and Brian Elliott were among the players in that position. The first three struggled in the postseason.
Giroux, however, said his struggles weren’t related to being away from his son, Gavin, and missing his first birthday.
“Obviously it was tough not to be home for a couple months, but if anything, I was more focused and it was more motivation to win,” he said.
Giroux pointed to the team’s power play as a big reason for their loss to the Isles. They went 0 for 13 in the series, and he called it “an issue,” saying they didn’t have the same confidence in it that they had before the 4 1/2-month break.
“We didn’t find ways to get the momentum,” he said, adding that players were also pressing more on five-on-five play because the power play wasn’t clicking.