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"I Want That First Shift"

Guest Irishjim

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I don't typically start off an article with a video, but I've seen this Dan Bylsma post-game interview a half dozen times and it just does not get old --

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"I want to congratulate the Flyers and their organization on the series win, but I can't really wish them good luck, though..." Bylsma says in front of an orchestra of media heads.

Now, there were a bunch of Philadelphians who believed this to be in poor taste. I beg to differ. Look, he congratulated our boys on a QuarterFinals victory. A series that had more drama infused in itself than an episode of The View when the hosts are menstruating simultaneously.

We're lucky just to get his acclaim.

After six games like that, we're all glad it's over. We're glad that we don't have to see Crosby's face every ten seconds. We're glad that we don't have to witness James Neal and Evgeni Malkin continually get away with subtle head-shots that we all know won't get looked at by the Department of Player Safety. We're glad that we don't have to breath in and out of a paper bag as Pittsburgh built up (what seemed to be) a possible 0 - 3 comeback. And most of all, we're glad we don't have to listen to the experts and their silly predictions any longer --


Not that I gave a damn one way or the other, but virtually everyone and their mothers had the Pens winning this series against our boys. If they weren't doing it in 5-games, then the Pens will certainly oust the Orange & Black in 6 or 7-games, they said.

Each and every single naysayer underestimated one player.

A leader.

A 24yr old kid who defied a collected professional prediction that all but had the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.

Claude Giroux --

Just 5-seconds into Game 6, Claude Giroux did two things:

  1. He set the tone for HIS team's victory, and...
  2. He did the hockey planet (minus Pittsburgh's faithful) a favor by planting Sid The Child through the ice surface with a booming body-check.

"When the best player in the world comes up to you and says, 'I don't know who you plan on starting tonight, but I want that first shift,'" Laviolette said, "that says everything you need to know about Claude Giroux."

Then at the 00:32 mark (23-seconds later), Giroux threw the puck on a burning rope which lit the game's first lamp, and the Flyers never looked back.

Through the remaining 59-minutes, 28-seconds of regulation, Philadelphia managed to apply pressure on Pittsburgh's brawn, only allowing one goal past their guard which came off a shorthanded breakaway chance in the Penguins' end.

Evgeni Malkin -- a man so physically grotesque that his face could put the brakes on an orgy of Ewoks -- skated into the Playoffs as the 2011-12's leading points-scorer.

Though he potted his share of pucks throughout the QuarterFinals, there's no denying he was shutdown by a 19yr old rookie forward, Sean Couturier, who managed to limit the Penguin ogre to three goals in six games, and Game 6's only Pittsburgh tally.

But it wasn't just the almighty gridlocking effort from one man in orange. Sunday's victory is thanks to this team's best effort all season long, through each second of the game.

The Flyers blocked an astounding 40-shots, while Bryzgalov took care of 30 of the 31-pucks sent on his net (0.968 SV%) --

"Bryz was simply amazing," Briere said. "He was focused from the start. Looking at him in the room, his preparation, you could tell, he was in a zone. There's something special in his eyes today. And to see him play, he was composed. He was sure of himself. It's fun to see him that way."

The nail in the coffin came off the stickblade of called-up defenseman Erik Gustafsson who was filling in for a still-injured Niklas Grossmann.

Gus carried the puck over the Penguins' blue line and flicked a wrister that surprisingly beat Marc-Andre Fleury gloveside. It took the air right out of the Flightless Pigeons' balloon --

Though it was Malkin who managed to cut into the Flyers 3 - 0 lead with a power-play goal, a combination of continued pressure, Danny Briere's fluky 5-hole shot and Brayden Schenn's empty netter sent the Penguins packing for the golf course.

Pittsburgh had been playing desperate since Game 4 which obviously tipped to their favor for two straight contests. Yesterday's Game 6 did not lack similar desperation for the Pens, however this time it was just as imminent for Philadelphia to skate away victorious. We did not want to take this to Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

Not only did they accept the challenge, but the Flyers -- with unitized heart and dominance -- put their state rivals away in epic fashion. And it's notable that they did so on the scoreboard, and not with any cheap shots aimed at their star players' skulls.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same for Penguin forwards Evgeni Malkin and James Neal who continued to head-hunt our boys throughout Sunday's tilt.

But bygones be bygones.

We don't have to worry about a team of sore-losing cowards any longer. They're currently in our wake, festering in the gloriousness that Philadelphia's labeled a series and moral victory.

A Pittsburgh Club that resorts to dangerous and illegal actions on the ice when they don't get their way. Whether it be a shot to our players' heads, a swung stick across the back of our superstar's legs, or any one of the thousand degenerate infractions we witnessed go uncalled through this series.....it's all behind us, and left to the Penguins to chew on for the next 5-months.

Time to move on. Time to focus on the SemiFinals.

The vision and glimmer of the Stanley Cup is now on our horizon. Make no mistake, it's not in reach. We still have eight more wins to even get a taste. But we've proven the experts wrong. We've burned expectations to basement floors of every skeptic. Our season's stars are no flukes.

This is business. This is cutthroat hockey.

This is a mission for the Stanley Cup.

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I know it's only the first round. But it's Flyers /Pens, and you can't get more hate than that....but Girouxs quote "I want that first shift" followed immediately by a crushing check on the #1 player followed shortly by a goal, is legend material if you ask me.

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Giroux is showing he can elevate his play for big games. 14 points in a 6 game series when you know he's the one marked for the top defensive players on the other team, a team that many thought would win the cup? That's huge. He's got to keep it going, though. This is round 1. There are 3 more, and 12 more wins, to go.

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I know it's only the first round. But it's Flyers /Pens, and you can't get more hate than that....but Girouxs quote "I want that first shift" followed immediately by a crushing check on the #1 player followed shortly by a goal, is legend material if you ask me.

If we win the cup this year, that quote and first shift by Giroux will go down in history forever..

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If we win the cup this year, that quote and first shift by Giroux will go down in history forever..

Agreed. It's not quite in the realm of Messier's guaranty win against NJ in the 94 playoffs and following it up with a 3 goal performance in the win, but it's not too far off either.

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Here's an account of the "shift" from the perspective of Pens blogger John Toperzer (found on Hockeybuzz):

"Going into Game 6, there were plenty of issues but one of the biggest was Sidney Crosby’s health. He took a somewhat reckless hit from Evgeni Malkin on Friday. Both Crosby and Malkin were held pointless in that contest, leading to speculation that Crosby might not be 100 percent healthy.

With that backdrop, the Penguins sent Pascal Dupuis-Steve Sullivan-Crosby out for the opening faceoff against Jaromir Jagr-Claude Giroux-Scott Hartnell up front. Pittsburgh’s rearguards included Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang while Philly assigned Matt Carle and rookie Erik Gustafsson to the blue line.

Giroux easily wins draw while Crosby nearly rips Giroux’s head off apparently trying to send a message. The puck slides back to the right side, where Gustafsson rams a too-hot-to-handle pass intended for Jagr through the neutral zone.

It almost looks like Jagr is trying to redirect the pass to his centerman but the puck gets tangled up in his skates and is fair game right outside Pittsburgh’s blue line.

Crosby puts on his brakes after thinking the puck was headed for his own end and approaches the biscuit with no momentum and one hand on his stick. He waves at the puck and actually makes a tremendous touch pass to Sullivan, who feeds Dupuis with a cross-ice pass that sends the winger in on a one-on-one opportunity up the right boards against Carle.

Dupuis’ shot, which is going wide right, is snagged by goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and the whistle is blown.

Now back to the hit that changed the game.

Giroux, already agitated by having to adjust his head gear courtesy of a Crosby hello on the opening faceoff, senses that Crosby will get to the puck before he does. As a result, Giroux loads up.

Crosby widens his stance reaching for the puck while Giroux leads with his left side for a hellacious hit, culminating with a right-glove high follow through that leaves Crosby sitting up against the boards.

NBC analyst, Brian Engblom, can barely contain himself from describing the extreme hockey play.

“That’s the way to start the game…you want to get the fans going in your own building, hit Crosby. That’s a good, clean, solid hoot (rhymes with foot, not boot, in this case). Boy that’s the way to set the stage here, perfect.”

Crosby wins the offensive faceoff in the offensive right dot. Letang dumps in deep on the left side but Gustafsson tracks it down. As the puck is back-handed up the boards, Giroux dumps the ref inadvertently but maintains his own balance.

Jagr clears the zone on his second attempt to Letang. Letang’s dump in is stopped. Jagr steals puck from Letang as he tries for control in the neutral zone and nudges the puck across the Pittsburgh blue line. Steve Sullivan, who hasn’t been engaged during the whole neutral ice scrum, attempts a forehand clear that looks more like a pass to a hard-charging Giroux than a clearing attempt. Uh-oh.

With Jagr providing a little bit of interference on Sullivan, Giroux corrals the puck high above the left circle. Sullivan overreacts to Giroux, who uses his favorite inside-out move to create plenty of open space as Sullivan skates to no-man’s land somewhere by the left dot.

Giroux now has a wide open, uncontested chance 31 seconds into the game. Defensemen Orpik and Letang are both back, but give goalie Marc-Andre Fleury a clear lane to see the centerman’s shot. Plus, Jagr has tied both blueliners up.

Giroux fires a wrister that clanks off the left post and hits off the goalie cam in the back of the net.

Not only does Giroux lay Crosby out in front of his own bench in the first five seconds of the game, but then he also scores and celebrates to the immediate right of Pittsburgh’s bench in the first minute of Game 6.

Message sent."

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I don't care what anyone says/or argues about Giroux's status as the best player in the world..in Philly, this is the type of sh*it that makes you a LEGEND!!!! Even if it was only the 1st round.

When the best player in the world comes up to you and says, 'I don't know who you plan on starting tonight, but I want that first shift,'" Laviolette said, "that says everything you need to know about Claude Giroux."

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There's now a new #1 to that Top 10 list of Giroux's Greatest.

After telling Lavy "I want that first shift" - also, Briere said G told him right before the puck-drop, "Watch this shift" - that is legendary - regardless what happens after.

Naturally it wouldn't have meant much if we'd lost but that's the beauty of that shift too - there was no way the Flyers were losing the game after a shift like that.

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