December 13, 2011
When the word was "whiplash," the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans breathed a sigh of relief about center Claude Giroux's injury. Said GM Paul Holmgren at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductions on Monday night in Chicago, to CSN Philly:
"He was better today," Holmgren said. "He did some things physically and felt OK. We'll continue to err on the side of caution. … He's got a little whiplash going. He's done the tests and his scores are OK. A concussion? I don't know. I wouldn't go that far just yet. Sometimes they come forward after a certain period of time."
On Tuesday, Holmgren and the Flyers acknowledged that the word for Giroux is officially "concussion." From the Flyers, Holmgren said:
"Claude reported not feeling very good today. Over the past few days, his symptoms have gradually gotten worse. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion."
With that, the two most important players on the Philadelphia Flyers — Giroux and Chris Pronger — are both out with concussions, both out for an indefinite period of time.
Can the Flyers play through this?
Giroux was injured in the second period, during a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. He reached for the puck with his stick in the neutral zone and fell to the ice. Flyers teammate Wayne Simmonds, trailing the play, accidentally kneed Giroux in the back of the head.
If it's prolonged, the impact of this loss could be enormous for the Flyers.
Giroux leads the NHL in points with 39, with 16 of them goals. With Phil Kessel and Jonathan Toews also making strong cases, it could be successfully argued that Giroux is the current Hart Trophy favorite. He plays more per game (21:28) than any other Flyers forward, including 4:06 on the power play and 2:50 shorthanded. He's seventh in the NHL for ice time among forwards.
What happens to the line with Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell, the team's three leading scorers who have combined for 40 of the team's 101 goals this season? Sean Couturier will move in the middle for now, having played there after Giroux's injury vs. the Bolts.
How will the loss of Giroux impact Jagr's offensive renaissance? Of his 10 goals, Giroux has assisted on six of them. The chemistry was instant and palpable. Jagr doesn't easily find it with other pivots.
The Flyers' caution paid off with Giroux, having shut him down in the last two days. From Ryan Bright, before the concussion was revealed:
It should be noted that Pronger also felt fine following a head injury in late October. He passed baseline tests, only to be crippled by lingering symptoms the Flyers called a "virus." With Schenn, the Flyers allowed their young cornerstone to practice last Tuesday, said he was likely to play, only to pull him from the roster on Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres. He remains out.
Head injuries, particularly concussion symptoms, have the tendency to creep up on players and attack without warning. They are shifty, sneaky and career threatening.
The Flyers can't let this one sneak up on Giroux.
For the sake of the Flyers — and our own entertainment levels for 24/7, the Winter Classic and watching perhaps the best line in hockey this season — hopefully Giroux mends quickly and stays healthy.
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