Claude Giroux Shines as Florida Panthers Advance to Second Round

Claude Giroux
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The Florida Panthers have defeated the Washington Capitals in a hard-fought 4-2 series. A comeback win at home in Game 5 paved the way for the Panthers to close out the first round in Washington. It was Carter Verhaeghe who scored the game-winning goal in overtime, an elevated backhand shot off a perfect feed from Claude Giroux. Florida will face the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Claude Giroux Leads Panthers to Second Round

Claude Giroux Trade Paying Dividends

In the biggest move of the trade deadline, the Philadelphia Flyers shipped longtime captain Claude Giroux out to the Panthers. The one year remaining on his contract made him the perfect rental deal as Florida geared up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thus far, the trade has paid off excellently for the Panthers.

He was one of their most productive players in the first round, scoring at over a point-per-game pace – three goals and four assists – through the six games. However, it wasn’t until the last two contests that Giroux really broke through, with five of his seven points coming in that stretch. One was the goal that sealed the 5-3 victory in Game 5 and put the Panthers on the precipice of advancing to the second round. One was the goal that evened up Game 6. Another was the perfect pass that allowed Aleksander Barkov to put the Panthers up 3-2 in that same game. And yet another feed to Verhaeghe in overtime sealed the Panthers’ ticket to the second round.

Beyond his scoring capabilities, Giroux is an experienced leader with knowledge of the postseason. He’ll be crucial to Florida’s leadership group as they look to make a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Carter Verhaeghe Steps Up

Though Florida’s star forwards were the story of the regular season, the offence found itself struggling to get going at the beginning of the series. Even later on, Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau weren’t the most productive scorers. That title has to go to Carter Verhaeghe, who, alongside Giroux, catalyzed the Panthers’ first-round victory with 6 goals and 6 assists through the six games.

Verhaeghe’s contributions were crucial to Florida’s offensive resurgence. In Game 4, he recorded two of the team’s three goals, including the overtime game-winning tally that evened up the series at two apiece. In Game 5, he heated up even more. None of the Panthers’ five goals were scored without Verhaeghe having a direct hand in the play; two were his own, and he recorded the primary assist on each of the other three. And in Game 6, he had yet another overtime winner, coming in the clutch at the most crucial point in the series.

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The fact that Verhaeghe has developed promising chemistry with Giroux is a good sign for Florida. The two led Florida’s forwards through the first round and will look to continue heating up. Even without the stars showing up as much as they did during the regular season, the Panthers’ offence appears to be in good hands for the time being.

Power Play Struggles Continue

A big point of concern for the Panthers in the future will be their power play. It was a struggle throughout the series. Though they got many chances (18 to be more exact) with the man advantage during the first round, they were unable to capitalize on any of them. Had the Panthers scored at all in those scenarios, the series might have been over even sooner. Florida’s regular-season dominance was bolstered by a power play among the league’s best, and they’ll need to get it going again if they want to maintain their success on offence.

Moving Forward

The Panthers’ next opponent will be either the Lightning or Maple Leafs, depending on how their Game 7 goes. Regardless of which team it ends up being, Florida must prepare to be heavily challenged. The Lightning, though not as dominant as they were last two years, are still the reigning champions who know how to win. The Maple Leafs would enter the second round with considerably less experience, but with a well-rounded team featuring the dangerous goal-scoring talent of Auston Matthews. After surmounting┬áthe Capitals’ physical defence in the first round, it will be interesting to see how the Panthers adjust to a much different opponent as they move on.

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