PHILADELPHIA – Only two Flyers – Bob Clarke and Eric Lindros – have ever won the Hart Trophy for the National Hockey League’s most valuable player.
Could that change this season?
Claude Giroux is coming on with such a rush that people are wondering if he might just pull an upset.
Giroux has gotten fairly close before.
He finished third in the 2013-14 voting after an 86-point season. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby won the MVP that year and Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf finished second.
Some thought Giroux might have received a few extra votes because of the fact he was overlooked in 2011-12, when he registered a career-high 93 points but wound up fourth in the voting and didn’t even get to go to the annual awards banquet.
After Sunday’s two-goal performance, including the overtime game-winner against Boston, Giroux has a new career-high of 95 points, including a career-high 29 goals and new top total of 66 assists.
With three games left on the Flyers’ schedule, there’s a very good chance Giroux will become only the sixth player in team history to compile a 100-point season and the first to do so in 22 years.
Giroux’s 66 assists are second in the NHL to Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler. His face-off percentage has hovered around the league lead at about 58 percent.
Sunday he was 7-2 (78 percent) and finished with a game-high plus-3 rating.
Philly’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy hasn’t missed a game either.
Not that such a stat is any big news. He’s only missed 10 games in his 10-year career.
No doubt Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar and New Jersey’s Taylor Hall will provide stiff competition.
But several Flyers believe Giroux deserves consideration.
“He’s obviously having a career year,’’ Matt Read said. “It’s been a good thing. It’s fun to watch. Very exciting. His confidence is high, he’s playing well. He’s been a leader on and off the ice. Every night he’s battling, he’s keeping everyone even-keeled.’’
Ditto from Travis Konecny.
“Look what he’s done, he’s having a career year,’’ he said. “He’s putting up numbers, he’s playing the right way every single night. His plus-minus is up there (plus-21) with anybody in the league.
“He’s a great leader. I just think that overall he’s definitely one of the stars in this league, if not top five in the entire league. An unbelieveable player – he’s done it all.’’
Giroux was asked if this is about as confident as he’s ever played.
“I don’t know,’’ Giroux said. “Good question. I haven’t really been thinking about that, to be honest, and I don’t think I’m willing to. I think the past is the past, even if it’s a negative or positive you just got to be able to move on and keep going better.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol appreciates the overall contribution of Giroux, not only as player but as captain.
The Hart Trophy wouldn’t surprise him.
“In my mind he is (an MVP candidate),’’ Hakstol said. “It’s not just the points for me. When you talk about that type of award, there’s a lot more to it. And ‘G’ does a heck of a lot more for our hockey team than just score points.
“Believe me, it’s hard to score points in this league. I’m not downplaying that. I’m telling you how important other things are that he provides to our hockey team.’’