How the Devils Stopped Claude Giroux at Even Strength

Soon enough, this picture will be on milk cartons everywhere.

Going into this series, a lot of people (my self included) didn't give the Devils much of a chance. One of the reasons was that the Flyers' star player was playing on another level and the Devils star player was hurt. Claude Giroux put up 14 points in 6 games against one of the Cup favourites, the Pittsburgh Penguins, albeit against the storm drain known as Marc-Andre Fleury. While that wasn't the only factor, that was one that was talked about quite a bit. However, four games into the series, Ilya Kovalchuk, despite missing game 2, has more points (5) in this series than Giroux (3).

I've also stressed this point out quite a bit- all of Claude Giroux's points have come on special teams, and not at even strength. With the majority of the game being played at even strength, this has been huge for the Devils- as they're able to silence the Flyers best weapon for a good majority of the game. Of course, he won't be playing tonight due to his suspension for his headshot on Dainius Zubrus. However, the Devils do deserve some credit for stopping Giroux. I'm interested in which Devils have been the most effective at stopping Giroux.

First off, lets look at how Giroux's fared at even strength in terms of puck possession

Game

Corsi

Fenwick

Fenwick%

1

1

4

59%

2

-4

-2

40%

3

-9

-10

29%

4

-16

-14

18%

In games one and two, it seems that Giroux wasn't completely dominated. My guess is that because of the Flyers home ice advantage (last change), Laviolette was able to get more favourable matchups. The drop off in his possession numbers might have a lot to do with the Devils gaining home ice and DeBoer getting better matchups. Games three and four saw Giroux completely dominated in terms of possession. In game 4, Giroux had a total of 3 fenwick events when he was on the ice at even strength.

Time on ice tracks the head to head ice time of players at even strength. Because of that, I can see who Giroux's been facing off at even strength against. Here's a list of who Giroux's most frequent opponents for the first four games of this series.

Game 1

Defenseman 1

Defenseman 2

Forward 1

Forward 2

Forward 3

1

Zidlicky

Salvador

Zajac

Ponikarovsky

Kovalchuk

2

Greene

Fayne

Bernier

Henrique

Ponikarovsky

3

Salvador

Zidlicky

Clarkson

Elias

Parise

4

Fayne

Greene

Ponikarovsky

Kovalchuk

Zajac

What's interesting is how the matchups have been different every game. It seems that rather than one specific defense pairing or one forward unit doing work, everyone who's been up against him has been able to succeed in terms of outplaying him. In general, it's been a team effort. Despite Giroux not consistently facing the tDevils' shutdown pairing (Greene and Fayne) or the Devils' best defensive forward (Elias), they have been able to stifle him at even strength.

With that being said, I like that the Devils aren't relying on just one player to stifle Giroux. The fact that he's having trouble with whoever he's been matched up against shows that whoever's playing against him is stepping their game up to match the intensity of one of the best players in the league. While there could be other reasons for Giroux's struggles, the Devils defense deserves a lot of credit for shutting Giroux down.

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