Giroux fits in well with Panthers, could be key to winning Stanley Cup

It included a photo of Giroux in the pool, enjoying the time away from the rink.

“It’s always hot here,” Giroux said. “You wake up in the morning and you put on your shorts and your t-shirt and your sunglasses. So it’s definitely different, but it’s not a bad adjustment to make.”

The adjustment has been easy for Giroux since Philadelphia traded him to Florida on March 19, but the forward didn’t waive the no-trade clause in his contract just so he could start his career early. off-season tanning. For Giroux, it was about having the chance to make the Stanley Cup playoffs and win the Cup for the first time in 15 NHL seasons.

Giroux and the Panthers are at the start of what they hope will be a long playoff journey, tied 1-1 with the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference first round heading into Game 3 of the best- of-7 at Capital One Arena on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS, NBCSWA, BSFL). Giroux has been chasing the Stanley Cup long enough to know that every playoff experience is to be treasured.

[RELATED: Complete Panthers vs. Capitals series coverage]

The 34-year-old came close to claiming victory in 2010, when he scored 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 23 playoff games to help the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Blackhawks in Chicago in six games. Philadelphia had promising regular seasons thereafter, but could not advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.

“It was my second year, and we went to the Stanley Cup Finals and you think you’ll get there (every season), but it doesn’t work like that,” Giroux said. “It’s a tough league to win. It’s a tough league to progress. There are a lot of great teams. You can see in the playoffs that anyone can beat anyone.

“So you just have to get out there, and when you have an opportunity like the one we have this year, you really have to take it.”

The opportunity to join the Panthers came during a difficult season when Giroux excelled, scoring 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists) in 57 games before the trade, but the Flyers were devastated by injuries and struggled to finish 15th in the East. Conference and away from the playoffs with 61 points (25-46-11).

Video: WSH@FLA, Gm1: Giroux wins the draw and scores by a backdoor

With Giroux eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, Philadelphia traded him for future assets, receiving the 23-year-old forward Owen Tippet, a first-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft or the 2025 NHL Draft, and a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Giroux was in control due to his no-trade clause and Florida was his preferred destination.

“I had the chance to play against them twice during the season and I liked the way they played,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of talent here and I just thought I’d fit in well. … It’s one of the best teams I’ve ever been in, for sure, skill-wise, skill-wise. attack, our defense and our goalkeeper.”

So far, it has worked as well as Giroux and the Panthers had hoped. Giroux had 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 18 regular season games after the trade. Florida went 15-3-0 in those 18 games, including a team-high 13-game winning streak from March 29 to April 23, and set Panthers records with 58 wins and 122 points to win the Presidents Trophy as the best team in the NHL. during the regular season.

Giroux scored two points (one goal, one assist) in his first two playoff games with the Panthers.

“He’s been great since he arrived here”, striker Carter Verhaeghe mentioned. “He fit in with all the guys straight away and he’s a leader in the team. He’s been there a long time so he’s really helping.”

Still, leaving Philadelphia was emotional for Giroux. He played his 1,000th and final regular season game with the Flyers, a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators, on March 17 and was traded two days later.

“I love Philly and for two, three days there it was pretty tough,” Giroux said. “But sometimes it’s the business side of it, and you just have to move on.”

Although Giroux couldn’t win the Stanley Cup in Philadelphia, he left an indisputable legacy. He captained the Flyers for 10 seasons and is second in franchise history with 900 points (291 goals, 609 assists) behind Bobby Clarke (1,210 points; 358 goals, 852 assists).

Giroux also ranks sixth in Philadelphia history with 73 points (25 goals, 48 ​​assists) in 85 playoff games.

“I spoke to ‘G’ a lot and I missed him,” Laughton said. “I don’t think he was greatly underestimated in Philadelphia and what he did on a daily and nightly basis will not be forgotten.”

Giroux quickly settled in South Florida. His wife Ryanne, their 2-year-old son Gavin and their 9-month-old son Palmer joined him about a week after the trade, which made the transition off the ice easier.

“We enjoyed it,” Giroux said. “The weather is great and the team is great, so there aren’t a lot of negatives.”

On the ice, coach Andrew Brunette used Giroux in several different line combinations, but most often with Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Bennett. In the locker room, Giroux is surrounded by a star-studded group that includes Huberdeau, center Alexander Barkovdefender Aaron Ekblad and guardian Sergei Bobrovsky.

Giroux is new to the team and is not a captain, but is considered a leader due to his experience. It’s priceless for Florida, which is trying to win its first playoff series since 1996.

“When he’s on the ice and when he’s on the bench, he’s like another coach,” Brunette said. “He’s seen it all. He’s played all these different times. And he’s like a kid. He loves the game and he loves breaking it down. His IQ and the way he sees it is off the charts. He has that ability leadership that the guys listen to him and he speaks out in a team that doesn’t have a lot of guys speaking out.”

Coincidentally, Giroux’s first playoff series with the Panthers was against the Capitals, a team he faced on several occasions with the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division, and their coach, Peter Laviolette. As Flyers coach, Laviolette raised eyebrows when he called Giroux the “best player in the world” in a 2012 playoff series against center Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Laviolette continues to have great respect for Giroux a decade later.

“He’s an impact player that we talk about in different situations, certainly his faceoffs, his way of playing offensively, his hockey sense, his power play,” said Laviolette. “He fits in. When you come to Florida and join their group, he kind of fits in because they have a lot of guys that had really good years. But definitely, still an impact player. “

Giroux hopes to make a lasting impact in Florida, although his stint could be limited to a few months with unrestricted free agency looming. He said any thoughts on his future beyond this season are “on hold” with his focus on the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup.

That’s why he wanted to come here.

“It’s been my dream since I was little, you know,” Giroux said. “I never thought I would play in the NHL, to be honest. I feel your dreams, there are a few steps. The first is to make the NHL and then it’s to win the Cup. And now I am on my #2 goal.”

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