Claude Giroux (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Injured center Claude Giroux made an unexpected return to Philadelphia's lineup Wednesday, but it wasn't enough to stop his Flyers from falling 2-0 to the New York Rangers – and getting an earful from GM Ron Hextall afterward.
When Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux was seen entering Madison Square Garden Wednesday before his team's game against the New York Rangers, he was in a walking boot – so it was quite the shocker when the team announced Giroux would be playing the Blueshirts that night. But unfortunately for Flyers fans, neither Giroux's presence nor a stellar showing from goalie Steve Mason would be enough to propel them to victory. Instead, they got a nasty tongue-lashing from GM Ron Hextall after their 2-0 loss.
You can see where Hextall's frustration comes from: this was his team's third straight loss and fifth defeat in their past 10 games. His Flyers now sit 13th in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the Metropolitan Division, just a single point ahead of the Hurricanes and three points ahead of the last-place Blue Jackets. And he also saw defenseman Michael Del Zotto – one of the few bright spots for a franchise that's faced a number of physical ailments ready this season – sidelined with a lower-body
injury following a collision with Rangers blueliner Dan Girardi.
So although it was heartening in some ways to see Giroux tough it out after injuring himself in practice Monday, it also could speak to the desperation running through the Flyers at the moment.
Offense hasn't been an issue for them thus far – they have the NHL's fifth-best offense at a 3.00 goals-for average – but Philadelphia has showed a troubling tendency to stumble for long stretches (they opened the season 0-2-2) and they wasted a 34-save performance Wednesday from Mason.
This may very well be the first serious test of the patience preached by Hextall (and endorsed by owner Ed Snider; in previous years, there could be pressure to shake up the team with a significant trade or two, but doing so this time would fly in the face of everything Hextall has talked about since taking over the job from Paul Holmgren in the summer. So it will be intriguing to see how they react – particularly if they have a similar result against the Rangers when the two teams square off again in a home-and-home series at the end of this month.