- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2012

PHILADELPHIA | Bronx cheers greeted the Philadelphia Flyers 10 minutes into Sunday’s game when they finally got a shot on net. To say they weren’t sharp after a week-long layoff would be an understatement.

“That was embarrassing,” center Claude Giroux said. “I mean, we can’t come out like that. It’s not acceptable.”

Rust in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils was the Flyers‘ punishment of sorts for polishing off the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. It was another example of how extra rest in the playoffs might be overrated.

“We probably weren’t in a game mode. Probably were in the practice mode,” goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov said.

The Devils were coming off a seven-game struggle with Florida and come out hard against the Flyers.

Philadelphia snapped out of its funk to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Washington Capitals weren’t so lucky a year ago. They had six days between defeating the New York Rangers and opening against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Less than a week later, the Lightning swept the Caps out of the playoffs.

Naturally, there was more to that series loss than rust, but there’s something to be said about staying in a groove.

“It’s definitely a challenge keeping yourself in the right frame when you have the long break,” Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “I think my first year we had that, we had 10 days or something. I think we struggled with it a little bit.”

Wideman said that you can’t say no to extra rest when a team has injuries. The Flyers‘ benefit of six days off was getting shot-blocking defenseman Nicklas Grossman back.

“I think rest is always a good thing. I think for a guy, you’ve got to get your body back to top shape,” Flyers forward Eric Wellwood said. “I don’t think there should be any excuse for [being] rusty or anything like that.”

New Jersey was coming off an emotional overtime victory over the Panthers on Thursday night and got the same kind of favorable turnaround as the Caps, who were in that same spot after beating the Boston Bruins.

Neither team could capitalize on that immediately. But the Rangers did, rolling along from a Game 7 win over Ottawa on Thursday night right into Saturday, when they beat the Caps at Madison Square Garden to start the second round.

“If you’re going to do this, I’d rather do it this way,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “Go right into it.”

Allowed to sit around last week and hear praise for knocking off the Penguins, the Flyers had the mental hurdle of not playing.

“Mentally, I think that’s the easiest way to be prepared,” Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said. “You know when it’s the second round of the playoffs, you try to get going, but [the Devils] didn’t play for three days, and I think they had a little advantage in the first period. Since the second period, we took over the game, and we played well.”

That’s an adjustment the Caps could not make a year ago, losing control of their series against the Lightning after a couple of losses at home. But it’s impossible to predict how a team will react to time off.

Peter Laviolette didn’t know. Asked repeatedly in the past week what was going to happen, the Flyers‘ coach lacked a definitive answer.

“I answered I don’t know because the truth of the matter is you don’t really know. You don’t know whether your team is going to come out and be jumping or whether it’s going to take a bit,” Laviolette said. “And you ask, would you rather have the time off or would you rather get right back into it? I think the time off was good for us, and now that we’re through it and we’re able to come out on the winning side, I’m glad it’s past us.”

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