Leafs, Flyers hoping to change fortunes
Think the Flyers had a long, painful offseason? Sure, but their frustration over not making the playoffs might pale in comparison to a team that actually did.
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When they finally dropped the puck Tuesday night in Montreal, no one was more thrilled to start the new season than the Toronto Maple Leafs. After all, when you squander a 4-1 lead in the last 11 minutes of Game 7 in Boston — two goals in the final 1 minute, 22 seconds with the Bruins' net open — you'll never forget it. The Maple Leafs eventually lost that one in overtime and lost the series.
The Leafs have tried their best to get past the debacle, but when old friends James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Co. take on the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night, they'll already be undermanned. Free-agent acquisition David Clarkson will miss the first 10 games of the season for leaving the bench during a recent altercation.
But don't expect any sympathy from the Flyers. The Orange and Black had won three straight season openers before dropping last year's lockout-shortened season debut to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, 3-1. When they followed that with losses in Buffalo and New Jersey, the tone for the season was set. Only a late 6-1 stretch — after they'd already been all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason — enabled Peter Laviolette's club to finish with a winning record, 23-22-3.
Now that they're back to a full 82 games, rather than the 48-game slate, it's less critical to get off to a good start. Just don't tell them that coming off a miserable 1-5-1 pre-season — in which they scored just 15 goals — doesn't matter.
"We have to learn from what happened last year and get off to a quick start," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen. "We need to be able to win games in a row, which we didn't do. That's the way you make the playoffs.''
"Imagine all 30 teams are saying that," said Laviolette, who won't reveal whether it will be Steve Mason or newcomer Ray Emery starting in goal until after Wednesday morning's skate. "There's no question you don't want to put yourself behind the eight-ball.It remains for all of us to get off on the right foot."