Claude Giroux’s play over the first half-dozen games this year were far from Olympic-calibre.
As the Philadelphia Flyers floundered and fired coach Peter Laviolette, their captain had no points in the first five games and didn’t score his first goal until more than a month into the season. By mid-November it looked like an uphill climb for Giroux to make it to Sochi, and that started inside Giroux’s own head.
"When you have a tough start, it’s tough to get that confidence back," he said.
When Giroux found some confidence, he went on a tear. In his past 27 games, the Hearst, Ont., native has 12 goals and 19 assists and is the leading scorer on a Flyers team that went from dead-last in the Eastern Conference to a playoff position and second place in the Metropolitan Division.
On an individual level, Giroux’s increase in production put him right in the thick of consideration for Team Canada’s Sochi Olympic team. Giroux denied he was even thinking about the possibility.
"I want to focus on how I got to play," he said after practice late last month. "At the end of the day, that’s how I’m going to help my chance of making the team is by playing well."
Giroux has done just that after starting slow.
The 25-year-old centre had off-season surgery to repair tendons in his right index finger, the rehab of which caused him to miss Canada’s Olympic orientation camp. General manager Steve Yzerman said at the time Giroux’s absence wouldn’t negatively affect his chances of going to Sochi.
No goals in his first 15 games would have. Since then, Philadelphia coach Craig Berube said Giroux looks like he’s "trusting himself" more.
"He looked like he didn’t really (believe in himself)– not on the outside so much, he was working hard and doing all the hard work and all that was there," Berube said. "All skilled guys if they’re not scoring or they’re not producing, they’re going to lack confidence."
Giroux linked his own mind-set to how his team performs. Giroux had seven assists and zero goals as the team started 4-10-1, but the Flyers are 17-7-3 since.
"When the team starts winning, the confidence goes up," he said. "You want to help the team win. For me to kind of help the team win is by putting the puck in the net."
Canada will need someone to put the puck in the net, too, especially if Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos is not healthy enough to play. Giroux was a point-a-game player at last year’s world championships, so he could have a place at the Olympics regardless of Stamkos’s condition.
That’s only the case because Giroux has gotten his groove back while focusing on his task with the Flyers.
"I think when the team plays good, the team plays on the same page, I think it kind of brings the best out of everybody," Giroux said. "I’m slowly starting to feel better. My confidence is there, and the team’s winning. I think if it keeps going like this, it’s going to look good for the future."