The best thing about the Flyers’ 3-1 loss to the Penguins Saturday afternoon in the lockout-delayed season opener is that there won’t be any time to dwell on it.
That is what’s good about playing 48 games in just over three months. What’s bad is a team can’t afford to get off to a slow start or have any protracted losing streaks, or it may quickly find the playoffs out of reach. Now the Flyers shuffle off to Buffalo to meet the Sabres around lunchtime Sunday.
“You never want to sit on a loss too long,’’ said Peter Laviolette, after Pittsburgh got a pair of early goals directly off face-offs from Tyler Kennedy and James Neal. “So we made sure of that with the 12:30 p.m. start. We’ll be back out, ready to play. After the first 13-14 minutes we seemed to play more of the style that we’re looking for. We controlled the play at times and had lots of shots and opportunities to put the puck in the net. But we seemed to be a little bit rushed out there and our passing was a touch off. I think that will come with time.”
Time wasn’t on their side in the opener, other than when Claude Giroux converted Scott Hartnell’s slick pass into a goal 23 seconds into the second period. They came close to getting the equalizer a few times after that, but clearly showed the rust expected from sitting around so long waiting for the lockout to end.
“I don’t know if you want to chalk it up to not playing for eight months or whatever, but we didn’t’ have any legs that first period,” said Hartnell, as the Flyers went 0-for-5 on the power play while the Pens scored twice with the man-advantage, once into an open net. “It’s a little frustrating to start like that at home. We wanted to have a good start, obviously, and we didn’t do that.”
Some nights the Flyers will be able to overcome that kind of start. Against a Penguins team showing far more inclination to check and wait for their chances than the team that coughed up 30 goals in last year’s playoffs, this was not one of them.
“Right now I think everyone is kind of hesitating in the system because we are all just coming back,’’ said Giroux. “We have to find a way to have no hesitation and know what we have to do. It’s too bad we couldn’t get those two points, but our guys battled hard [in the] second and third [periods]. Now we have to keep our heads up and find a way to put that behind us and be ready for Buffalo.”
While elephants may have long memories, hockey players can’t afford to. Like it or not in the NHL this season, that’s going to be name of the game.