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For Flyers' blossoming Giroux, it's his favorite time of year

Three years ago, baby-faced Claude Giroux sat down at Haircut 100, around the corner from the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, for a trim.

"Let's just say, I hate losing more than [I like] winning," Flyers forward Claude Giroux said. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
"Let's just say, I hate losing more than [I like] winning," Flyers forward Claude Giroux said. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

Three years ago, baby-faced Claude Giroux sat down at Haircut 100, around the corner from the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, for a trim.

There was some small talk, and when he was asked what was going on in his life, Giroux said he was a hockey player.

Hairdresser: "Do you play in a junior league?"

Giroux: "Uh, no. I play for the Flyers."

Hairdresser, her face turning red: "Oh. Sorry, I didn't know."

Fast-forward to the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Now, anyone with interest in hockey recognizes Giroux, who, with a few more series like his last one against the Pittsburgh Penguins, might replace Sidney Crosby as the face of the NHL.

Giroux, 24, politely shrugged off the suggestion after Wednesday's practice in Voorhees.

"Obviously, it's good to hear compliments like that," he said, "but I'm not too worried about that kind of stuff right now."

The Flyers' focus, of course, is on the next round. The focus will become clearer when they learn their next opponent after all of Thursday's Eastern Conference quarterfinals are completed.

Giroux, whose reddish beard is starting to fill in, says that regardless of the opponent, the Flyers will have the same mentality.

"Our goal has always been to outwork the other team. That's always giving ourselves a chance to win, and I think we've done a pretty good job of that all year," said Giroux, who leads the NHL with 14 points in six playoff games this spring. "Our plans are not going to change."

The long layoff between games, he said, won't hurt the Flyers.

"We're a young team, a team that can skate and have a lot of energy," he said. "We have a lot of guys who are in their first time in the playoffs, and they're excited. The good thing about the playoffs is that you have that rush for a couple months. Every day you're just thinking hockey or doing hockey, and it's pretty fun. It's the best time of the year, and I'm not too worried about our team."

When you watch Giroux go all out in practice and see the dogged determination he displays (see his early hit on Crosby in Game 6, for instance), it's difficult to believe that, by his own admission, he was once a loafer on the ice.

"When I was playing minor hockey, I was actually a really lazy guy. I didn't really work hard," he said. "When I went to juniors, my coach kind of pushed me to want to be competitive and want to win."

His attitude adjustment translated to this: In two seasons and 132 games in the Quebec Major Junior League, Giroux had 87 goals and 215 points.

"Let's just say, I hate losing more than [I like] winning," he said. "It can be a good thing or bad thing. I just hate losing. It's the worst feeling. Letting your team down is my worst nightmare."

Veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen smiled when relayed Giroux's words.

"I've been saying this the whole season long that he's our engine, he's our motor. When he goes, we go," Timonen said. "He plays a lot of minutes. He plays in different situations - shorthanded, power play - and he plays against the top lines."

Giroux averaged 21 minutes, 39 seconds of relentless ice time per game - nearly four minutes more than any other Flyers forward - in the six-game series win over the Penguins.

"To me, a leader is one of those guys everybody looks up to in the game," Timonen said. "I've been on teams where the leader, the captain, is not necessarily the best player. But, personally, I always think when you look at the captain, he has to be one of the better players on your team, and he's one of them."

Timonen says Giroux, who finished third in the NHL with 93 points this season, will "for sure" be a captain down the road. With each year, Giroux has become more outgoing.

"He obviously has those qualities in him, and with a couple years under his belt, you tend to be more vocal in the room and that kind of stuff," Timonen said.

This is Giroux's favorite time of the year, and it shows. In 46 career postseason games, he has 19 goals and 52 points.

"Everybody wants to play in the playoffs. Everybody wants to play their best in the playoffs. Everybody is watching," said Giroux, whose name then-general manager Bob Clarke temporarily forgot while announcing he had selected him 22d in the 2006 draft.

"It's about that Cup. It's something I've been dreaming about since I'm a little kid. It's obviously not easy to get, but with the guys in this room, everybody's ready to sacrifice themselves to do it. Personally, I feel lucky to be playing with this kind of team."

In turn, his teammates feel lucky to have him as their young leader, and they wonder how 21 other teams bypassed him in the draft.

As for that Voorhees hairdresser? Well, she now recognizes the player they call "G."

If he helps lead the Flyers to 12 more playoff wins, almost everybody will.