The last time Claude Giroux spent time at left wing for the Philadelphia Flyers, the year was 2008 and he was a rookie in the NHL. He had nine goals and 18 assists that season. After that, Giroux spent the majority of his career at the center position. Fast forward to training camp this season and head coach Dave Hakstol decided to move Giroux back to the wing.
With Giroux moving to wing, it opened up the number one center spot. The team decided to give that role to Sean Couturier. And that left the right wing spot for Jakub Voracek. There was concern when the move was made, but the trio has erased that as they have thrived together. And it’s sparked the three of them as they have produced results in the team’s first five games.
Claude Giroux Move To Wing Sparking Top Line
Last season was certainly a disappointing year for the Flyers, but more so for Claude Giroux. He had just 14 goals and 44 assists, finishing with his worst point total since the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. He dealt with a recovery from off-season abdominal surgery, something he admitted hampered him for most of the season.
Coming into camp healthy was an opportunity for Giroux to prove that he wasn’t in a decline. It took Giroux nine games to get his first goal last season. This year, it only took him one game to get on the scoresheet. In fact, he scored the first goal of the regular season for the Flyers in a 5-3 opening night victory against the San Jose Sharks.
Giroux has registered at least one point in all but one of the Flyers five games this season. His only pointless game came in a 2-0 shutout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. So far, Giroux has contributed with three goals and four assists. Along with Couturier and Voracek, Giroux broke out in the game against the Washington Capitals.
He was one of three players to score twice in their 8-2 home opening victory. He also had two assists in the game. At no point last season did Giroux have a four point game. His last came on February 29th of the 2015-16 season. He captured four assists against the Calgary Flames.
His seven points are good for third on the team, two behind Voracek.
Voracek is off to a much hotter start than last season. It took him 14 games last season to reach nine points. This season, it’s only taken five games. Voracek leads the team in points with nine assists. Those assists have him tied for second in the league. While the goals haven’t come yet, it’s his strength and playmaking on the ice that have made him successful on the top line.
Voracek was also coming off a disappointing year last season, which saw him finish with 20 goals and 61 points. He had 11 goals and 55 points the season before. This season, Voracek started quick, assisting on three goals in the win against the Sharks. The points kept coming as Voracek has gotten at least one assist in all but one game. He’s twice hit the three assist mark in a game
His nine assists are the most by a Flyer after the first five games since Peter Forsberg‘s 10 points in 2005-06. It’s also the best start of Voracek’s career. One of his best assists came in the win against the Capitals when he would deke out rookie Madison Bowey.
Madison Bowey still has no idea where Voracek is.
What a move. pic.twitter.com/hUVSwoCZ7n
— NBC Sports Philly (@NBCSPhilly) October 15, 2017
And the new top line center hasn’t been too far behind in scoring.
While moving Giroux to wing was considered a big move, it was moving Couturier up to the top line center position that caught people’s attention. Couturier had routinely dealt with injury troubles and didn’t have the scoring touch needed for a number one center. But he has turned away all the critics with his play so far this season.
A season ago, Couturier had 14 goals and 20 assists, his lowest point total since 2012-13. He also appeared in only 66 games, the second time he has failed to reach at least 70 in a full season since his first year in the league in 2011-12. Couturier has appeared in all 82 games only twice in his career, 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Five games into this season, Couturier has three goals and three assists. Two of those goals came against the Capitals. His six points tie him for fourth on the Flyers. This has been a chance for Couturier to prove that he can handle the top line duties. And he’s passed the test with flying colors so far.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time for this opportunity. So far, it’s been going good and hopefully we can keep it up and do something special this year.” Couturier said about being on the top line.
This trio has combined for six goals and 16 assists so far this season. In the win against the Capitals alone, the three of them would combine for 10 points, four goals and six assists. It’s exactly the kind of production the Flyers want out of their top line.
But they have been getting production from other players as well.
Contributions Coming From Up and Down The Lineup
While the top line has taken most of the headlines in terms of scoring, other players have been contributing at a high pace as well. There are only four players who haven’t recorded a point this season.
Shayne Gostisbehere is having a much needed bounce back season. He also had off-season surgery last year and struggled to regain his form for most of the year. Now he’s second on the team in points, all eight being assists.
Wayne Simmonds has continued to prove his worth as he has five goals and one assist. He recorded the first opening night hat trick in Flyers history when he registered three goals against the Sharks.
One of the biggest surprises, however, has been the Flyers fourth line. The line consists of Scott Laughton centering Michael Raffl and Taylor Leier. The line has done well together, consistently spending their time in the offensive zone. The most notable player on that line has been Laughton.
A season ago, Laughton was sent to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and told to work on his defensive game. He took that demotion in stride and proved to be one of the Phantoms best players. That time in the AHL has helped, as Laughton also broke out offensively in Saturday night’s win. He scored his first two goals of the season, giving him three points overall.
The points aren’t piling up for Nolan Patrick just yet. But he did get his first NHL goal in the loss against the Nashville Predators. His first NHL point came via an assist on a goal scored by Ivan Provorov against the Anaheim Ducks.
A team that struggled to score consistently last season is averaging 4.20 goals per game this year. It’s a hard pace to keep up, but the Flyers look a lot different than they have in previous years. And it will certainly help if a player like Claude Giroux can continue to regain his previous form.
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