DETROIT — Flyers captain Claude Giroux, mired in a long slump, is putting a “lot of pressure on himself” to produce, and it’s having an effect on his game.
That’s the opinion of coach Alain Vigneault, and Giroux agrees.
“It’s kind of the story of my life. I put too much pressure on myself,” the highly intense Giroux said.
Giroux, 32, is goalless in his last 12 games and has just 13 goals and 35 points. He is on pace for 20 goals and 54 points, which would be his lowest full-season point total since 2009-10, when he had 47 points during his first full NHL season. The longtime captain had 102 points two years ago and 85 last season.
“Sometimes when you press too much, it has a reverse effect,” he said. “Maybe I’m overthinking it right now. I just have to go out there and play some hockey. I’ve played hockey my whole life, and I’ve always figured it out.”
Despite Giroux’s struggles, the Flyers (29-17-7) are soaring. With others (hello, Scott Laughton and Kevin Hayes, among others) picking up the slack, they are on a 6-1-1 run and have climbed into the Eastern Conference’s top wild-card spot entering Tuesday’s action.
With center Nolan Patrick sidelined by a migraine disorder, Giroux has been dividing time between center and left wing this season. He has been playing primarily center lately. Overall, the Flyers are 17-14-3 with him at wing, 12-3-4 when he is at center and given more defensive responsibilities.
Giroux, who has just 13 power-play points, said it doesn’t matter where he plays and that he feels "pretty comfortable” being back at center. “I just have to find a way to find my game and, like I said, don’t overthink things.”
He has been contributing in other ways, namely his strong defense at even strength and on the penalty kill, and his dominance in the faceoff circle.
Vigneault says he “sees a tremendous amount of will” in Giroux’s game, “as far as wanting to play the right way and wanting to do the right thing. There’s no doubt he wants to be a difference-maker and the player he has been for so many years. He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself. He wants to lead and wants to do it the right way. But, for me, he needs to make better plays with the puck. Right now, he’s having a harder time seeing what’s open and what the right play is.”
Added Vigneault: “He’s doing all the right things to find it. He’s watching his shifts [and not staying on the ice too long], working extremely hard in practice. He’s got the right attitude, and as a coach, you have to stick with a player like that. I really believe he’s going to come through for us.”
Vigneault was asked if Giroux was more effective at wing.
“I could say yes, but I would say everyone who has been playing with Coots [Sean Couturier] has been playing well,” he said. “Good players make the other guys around them better. He’s got to make the other guys around him better. It’s that simple.”
Getting Giroux (known as “G”) and his Alphabet Soup Line -- which also includes James van Riemsdyk (JVR) and Travis Konecny (TK) -- to improve its production would go a long way toward steering the Flyers to a second- or third-place finish in the wildly competitive Metropolitan Division.
Entering Tuesday’s games, two points separate six teams, including the Flyers, battling for playoff spots in the conference.