Score Strip

  1. League: NHL
  2. Boston vs. Detroit
    8:00 PM
    1 BOS
    4 DET
  3. Colorado vs. Minnesota
    9:30 PM
    1 COL
    4 MIN
  4. San Jose vs. Los Angeles
    10:30 PM
    2 SJ
    3 LA
  5. View All

Hockey is back, but Penguins and Flyers show it won't be pretty for a while

Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Yahoo Sports

PHILADELPHIA — It felt almost like October – almost like April, even. The sun was shining. The fans were tailgating. The building buzzed as the bowl filled with orange and the air filled with chants, long before Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux took the opening faceoff and the Pittsburgh Penguins faced the Philadelphia Flyers.

View gallery

.

Marc-Andre Fleury tries to clear the puck in front of Scott Hartnell. (Getty Images)

"Let's go, Flyers!"

"Crosby sucks!"

"It felt almost like a playoff atmosphere," Penguins veteran Craig Adams said.

It felt, well, normal.

There was no hint that a four-month lockout had alienated the fans. The Flyers drew 19,994, the largest regular-season crowd in their history. The players were not booed, except for, of course, the Penguins. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was not ridiculed. Not one "Fire Bettman!" In Philly.

Only problem was, the Penguins' 3-1 victory didn't look normal. Saturday's opener didn't look like a playoff opener or even a regular-season opener. It looked like what it was – the first game between two teams that haven't played in about eight months – and the buzz fizzled into silence.

Giroux did dance around a defender on the left wing at one point, but the second-best moves of the game were on the video boards during a TV timeout, when a fat guy jiggled gloriously to ‘Gangnam Style.’ That riveting 314-penalty-minute, 56-goal, six-game, Pens-Flyers playoffs series was a long, long time ago.

"We knew we weren't going to come in here and, like it's Game 6 of the playoffs, the timing's going to be there and we're going to be working the puck around, making great passes," Penguins winger James Neal said. "We knew we'd be scrambling. We knew we were still trying to get our game legs under us. It's been a while since we've played."

[Also: Kings finally raise Stanley Cup banner]

The NHL's post-lockout slogan says "Hockey is back." But obviously hockey never left – only the NHL did – and obviously it's going to take at least a couple of weeks before actual, legitimate NHL hockey is back, too.

As the Penguins and Flyers were trying to find their legs, the reigning champion Los Angeles Kings fell behind the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-0, and lost, 5-2. It wasn't because their arms were tired from taking another victory lap with the Stanley Cup or because the hockey gods were sick of being disrespected. (We think.)

The pattern continued the rest of the day around the league, and just wait until some of these same teams play again Sunday. The Flyers hit the road to play at Buffalo in less than 24 hours.

One veteran scout said he would draw no conclusions from these early games. They aren't even like preseason games, because the players aren't all starting from the same point. Some have been playing in other leagues; most have not been. Some are in shape and sharp; others are not. They have had only six days of training camp together. That's it.

During the first intermission, the Flyers played the Bruno Mars song: ‘Locked Out of Heaven.’ “’Cause you make me feel like, I've been locked out of heaven, for too long …" It seemed fitting. But that song pines for Halle Berry, and this game passed for Wilkes-Barre. It was not heavenly hockey. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called it "a little haphazard."

"I don't know if you want to chalk it up to not playing for eight months or whatever," Flyers winger Scott Hartnell said, "but we didn't have any legs that first period."

"I'm not going to lie," Giroux said. "The first period was kind of ugly."

Though the Flyers felt they played better in the second and the third, the game slowed. This had all the frustrating pace and dysfunction of a collective-bargaining session, but none of the animus. When Penguins and Flyers gathered in the corners, it seemed more like an NHL Players' Association caucus than a battle of bitter rivals.

"It wasn't pretty," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said.

Remember the playoffs, when the Flyers seemed to score on every power play? They went 0-for-5 Saturday. They shot themselves in the foot – literally. Center Brayden Schenn came off the half wall with space and time, saw a wide-open teammate and put a pass straight into his skates. That kind of stuff happened all game, on both sides.

View gallery

.

The Penguins won their season opener, but it wasn't pretty. (Getty Images)

"There were a lot of instances out there for a lot of people where the game was going a little bit faster than their brains were," Bylsma said. "Sometimes they got surprised by the speed."

Remember when these teams couldn't hit each other enough? Remember when there were scraps all over the place? It isn't just skilled play that takes time to return. You can't simulate physical play in practice.

"The battle conditioning, it's a lot different," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Having guys lean on you, having guys hit you, it takes a lot out of you, and you're not used to that."

The coaches know all this. And while they will do whatever they can to find an edge, because these games count just as much as when everyone eventually finds his legs, they generally will have to roll their lines and let the boys play through it.

They have to simplify things. Forget tic-tac-toe plays. Forget cross-ice passes. Keep it simple, put the puck in deep and hope the goalie cleans up the slop. At least Marc-Andre Fleury was better than he was in the playoffs last year, making 26 saves and earning his 227th career victory, most in Penguins history.

[Puck Daddy: 2013 Stanley Cup predictions]

"When you go into a Winter Classic game and the ice isn't going to be great and it's raining out, you have to adjust your mentality and focus," said Bylsma, who faced those conditions when the Penguins played outdoors on New Year's Day 2011. "I think that's a little bit of what you have to do with your expectations you have for your execution level. You have to expect it's not going to be great. If you force things and get frustrated, it allows the other teams to maybe take advantage of that."

So, yeah. Lower your expectations for a while. Don't get frustrated. And take comfort in this: You know what 50/50 referred to Saturday? Not hockey-related revenue. The raffle.

At least we're critiquing the hockey now.

"It's good to talk about something else besides the lockout," Giroux said, "and actually talk about the game."

Most underrated NHL teamsYahoo! Sports' Greg Wyshynski on the teams that could surprise this year.

View Comments
  • Nishikori reaches quarterfinals at Barcelona Open

    Nishikori reaches quarterfinals at Barcelona Open

    BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori reached the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open by beating Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-4 Thursday. … More »

    AP - Sports - 7 minutes ago
  • When Bosh steps up, Heat reaps benefits

    When Bosh steps up, Heat reaps benefits

    When Chris Bosh scores 20 points in the playoffs, the Miami Heat are nearly impossible to beat. Bosh had exactly 20 in Miami's Game 2 win over Charlotte in their Eastern Conference first-round matchup on Wednesday night. Miami is now 12-2 in … More »

    AP - Sports - 15 minutes ago
  • Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Repeat offenders, Lady Byng and overtime thrillers

    Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Repeat offenders, Lady Byng and overtime thrillers

    [Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever … More »

    Puck Daddy - 31 minutes ago
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges, says he was blackmailed as trial opens

    F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges, says he was blackmailed as trial opens

    MUNICH - Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected accusations of bribery as he went on trial Thursday in a case that could threaten his grip on the sport, telling a Munich court that he was blackmailed by a German banker who received a disputed … More »

    The Canadian Press - 32 minutes ago
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges

    F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges

    Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected accusations of bribery as he went on trial Thursday in a case that could threaten his grip on the sport, telling a Munich court that he was blackmailed by a German banker who received a disputed $44 … More »

    AP - Sports - 33 minutes ago
  • Pineda says he'll learn from ejection for pine tar

    Pineda says he'll learn from ejection for pine tar

    The pine tar glistened on Michael Pineda's neck, improving his grip and inviting trouble. The Yankees' right-hander spoke quietly after being ejected in the second inning of the Red Sox' 5-1 win over New York on Wednesday night. And less than two … More »

    AP - Sports - 51 minutes ago
  • Phelps launches comeback in 100m fly

    Phelps launches comeback in 100m fly

    Returning to swimming after a 20-month retirement, Michael Phelps is easing back into the sport he once dominated by racing one of his best events. The 18-time Olympic gold medalist will swim the 100-meter butterfly at the Arena Grand Prix on … More »

    AP - Sports - 52 minutes ago
  • Quiros, Dyson share lead at China Open

    Quiros, Dyson share lead at China Open

    Alvaro Quiros and Simon Dyson each shot a 5-under 67 to share the lead after the first round of the China Open on Thursday. The pair were a stroke ahead of a group of six golfers that included defending champion Brett Rumford of Australia and … More »

    AP - Sports - 57 minutes ago
  • Radwanska rolls into Stuttgart quarters

    Radwanska rolls into Stuttgart quarters

    STUTTGART, Germany (AP) -- Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Italy's Roberta Vinci 6-3, 6-2 to book her quarterfinal place at the Porsche Grand Prix on Thursday. … More »

    AP - Sports - 57 minutes ago
  • Everest climbing season in disarray after deaths

    Nepal's attempts to salvage the Mount Everest climbing season fell flat Thursday as major expedition companies canceled their climbs and many Sherpas quit the mountain after an avalanche killed 16 of their fellow guides last week. While the season … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 8 minutes ago
  • Comcast's Fandango ticket service buys MovieClips

    (Reuters) - Fandango, a movie ticketing service owned by cable company Comcast Corp, is buying MovieClips from Zefr Inc to boost its film-related content. MovieClips, launched in 2009, licenses movie scenes from various studios, puts them up on … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 30 minutes ago
  • No rest for weary Atletico as Valencia trip looms

    No rest for weary Atletico as Valencia trip looms

    By Tim Hanlon BARCELONA, April 24 (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid must put their Champions League ambitions to one side when they look to maintain their surprise La Liga title surge in a tough trip to Valencia on Sunday. They are on the verge of … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 54 minutes ago
  • Dyson enjoys happy return to China, shares lead with Quiros

    (Reuters) - Englishman Simon Dyson, who was handed a suspended two-month ban for cheating in December, fired a five-under-par 67 to grab a share of the first round lead at the European Tour's China Open on Thursday. The Englishman fired six birdies … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 3 minutes ago
  • Formula One boss denies bribery at German trial

    Formula One boss denies bribery at German trial

    By Keith Weir MUNICH Germany (Reuters) - Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone denied bribery allegations on Thursday when he went on trial in Germany in a case that threatens to break the Briton's decades-long dominance of the motor sport. … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 4 minutes ago
  • Ajax extend ban on fans travelling to Feyenoord games

    REUTERS - Ajax Amsterdam have extended the ban on their fans attending away league games against arch-rivals Feyenoord in Rotterdam following the riotous behaviour of supporters in Sunday's Dutch Cup final. It ends hopes that a five-year suspension … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 5 minutes ago
  • Guan, 15, getting used to spotlight

    One year after his stunning debut at the Masters, Chinese 15-year-old golfer Guan Tianlang is growing accustomed to being in the spotlight. The teenager's star has risen quickly in China since his breakthrough at Augusta National, where at the age … More »

    AP - Sports - 2 hours 7 minutes ago
  • Bolton Wanderers to rename the Reebok stadium

    (Reuters) - Bolton Wanderers will change the name of their Reebok stadium to the Macron from July as part of a new deal between the Championship club and an Italian sportswear manufacturer. It will be the first change of name for the second tier … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 14 minutes ago
  • Protesters rally against FIFA president Blatter

    A handful of protesters holding banners and placards demonstrated peacefully Thursday at an event with FIFA president Sepp Blatter to highlight the plight of migrant workers building stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Blatter was a guest at … More »

    AP - Sports - 2 hours 15 minutes ago
  • Golf-Dyson enjoys happy return to China, shares lead with Quiros

    Englishman Simon Dyson, who was handed a suspended two-month ban for cheating in December, fired a five-under-par 67 to grab a share of the first round lead at the European Tour's China Open on Thursday. The Englishman fired six birdies and a lone … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 28 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Dirk Nowitzki

    Postgame: Dirk Nowitzki

    Dirk Nowitzki addresses the media following the Game 2 win over the Spurs. … More »

    NBA.com - 2 hours 33 minutes ago
  • Hanyu determined to build on success of Sochi

    Hanyu determined to build on success of Sochi

    Yuzuru Hanyu has barely had time to dwell on the Olympic and world titles he won in the first quarter of 2014, yet he's already thinking about how to improve for next season. Hanyu became the first Japanese man to claim Olympic gold in figure … More »

    AP - Sports - 2 hours 51 minutes ago
  • More teams withdraw, Nepal's Everest season in jeopardy

    By Gopal Sharma KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Several foreign climbing expeditions have called off attempts to scale Everest following an avalanche that killed at least 13 local guides, meaning Nepal faces an entire season without a single ascent of the … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 54 minutes ago
  • No clubs facing FFP European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs facing FFP European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs can expect to be expelled from European competition next season for breaking financial fair play rules, UEFA president Michel Platini said in an interview on Thursday. UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) policy, designed to stop clubs … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 58 minutes ago
  • No clubs facing European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs facing European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs will be kicked out of European competition next season for breaking financial fair play rules, UEFA president Michel Platini said in an interview on Thursday. UEFA's financial fair play (FFP) policy, designed to stop clubs spending more … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago
  • Fast-breaking Real home in on elusive 10th European crown

    Fast-breaking Real home in on elusive 10th European crown

    By Tim Hanlon BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid took a step closer to an elusive 10th European Cup with a 1-0 home win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday and the Spanish side will hope to finish off the job in Germany having shown how effective they … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Schalke aiming to seal Champions League spot

    By Karolos Grohmann REUTERS - Schalke 04's season could have a happy ending at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday when they hope to claim a Champions League spot after a rollercoaster campaign punctuated by injury problems. Schalke, who … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Sturridge hopeful of returning against Chelsea

    Sturridge hopeful of returning against Chelsea

    REUTERS - Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is optimistic of returning from injury for the key clash against former team mates and title rivals Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday in a boost for the Premier League leaders. "Hopefully this weekend I'll be … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real

    Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real

    Holders Bayern Munich promised a sharp improvement when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final after failing to convert the lion's share of possession into goals in a 1-0 defeat in Spain on Wednesday. Bayern … More »

    Reuters - 5 hours ago
  • Be optimistic about Brazil, says Blatter

    Be optimistic about Brazil, says Blatter

    By Stefanie McIntyre HONG KONG (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has encouraged fans to be optimistic that the World Cup in Brazil will be a success, amid growing concerns over security and public unrest as workers scramble to finish stadiums … More »

    Reuters - 5 hours ago
  • Announcer relishes role as voice of Kentucky Derby

    Announcer relishes role as voice of Kentucky Derby

    From his perch with a panoramic view of the world's most famous racetrack, the new voice of Churchill Downs will sit out one of the most anticipated moments of the tradition-soaked Kentucky Derby. Larry Collmus will try to tune out ''My Old … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real Madrid

    Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real Madrid

    By Karolos Grohmann REUTERS - Holders Bayern Munich promised a sharp improvement when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final after failing to convert the lion's share of possession into goals in a 1-0 defeat in … More »

    Reuters - 5 hours ago
  • Wednesday's Sports In Brief

    BOSTON (AP) -- Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected for using pine tar less than two weeks after appearing to get away with using a foreign substance in another game against Boston, and the Red Sox beat New York 5-1 on Wednesday night. … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Flyers lack punch at home on power play

    Flyers lack punch at home on power play

    Back on their home ice, the Philadelphia Flyers fizzled on the power play. The Flyers ranked 25th in the NHL in power-play efficiency at home during the regular season, scoring on 15.1 percent of their chances. In Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the New … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Lions welcome new faces at minicamp

    Lions welcome new faces at minicamp

    Their new coach has been to Super Bowls and the Detroit Lions how have two new players who have championship rings. Free-agent acquisitions Golden Tate and James Ihedigbo - who played on the winning side of the last two Super Bowls - finished their … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Iowa's offense looking to match defense

    Iowa's offense looking to match defense

    Iowa's defense was back among the nation's elite last season. The Hawkeyes' offense failed to follow suit. Getting both units to play at an equally high level will likely be crucial to Iowa's hopes of competing for a Big Ten West title. The … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Mike Trout robs Bryce Harper with impressive diving catch

    Mike Trout robs Bryce Harper with impressive diving catch

    One phenom robs another. … More »

    Big League Stew - 6 hours ago
  • Stars even with Ducks after 4-2 win in Game 4

    Stars even with Ducks after 4-2 win in Game 4

    The young Dallas Stars keep overcoming early 2-0 deficits. With their latest comeback in Game 4, they are now even with the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks. Down in the series after losing the first two games in Anaheim, the Stars trailed by two goals in … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Jets returning to SUNY Cortland for training camp

    The New York Jets are holding training camp at SUNY Cortland again this summer, returning to central New York for the fifth time in the last six years. The team trains on the school's campus, located about three hours from the Jets' facility in … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Road teams off to fast start in playoffs

    Road teams off to fast start in playoffs

    Here's the list of teams that had home-court advantage entering the opening round of these NBA playoffs: Indiana, Miami, Toronto, Chicago, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers. Here's the list of teams that still held … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Your Top Plays for Today

    Your Top Plays for Today

    Your Top Plays for Today: AP's Sports Guide … More »

    AP - Sports - 7 hours ago