Most likely, though, defenseman Kimmo Timonen summed it up best when he diagnosed the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
"We were sleeping the first half of the game," he said. "We weren't ready to play. It happens to every team."
Despite the defeat, the Flyers remained first overall in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey won its third in a row for the first time this season.
While the Flyers yawned through the first period, the Devils, who have recently awakened but still have the worst record in the NHL, controlled play and grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by defenseman Henrick Tallinder and center Patrik Elias, who later sealed the Flyers' fate on an empty-net goal with 42 seconds remaining in the third period.
To a man, the Flyers denied they were storing their energy for the Blackhawks.
"I don't think so," said goalie Brian Boucher, who fought off several prime scoring chances by the Devils in the first yet allowed a soft goal by Elias to slip through his pads. "I didn't get that sense. We would have liked a better start. It ended up costing us, but I don't think it was because guys were looking ahead. I hadn't heard anybody talk about it, so I don't think that was the reason."
Whatever the reason, it was apparent to Flyers coach Peter Laviolette which team had more zip in the skates in the first period.
"We didn't have what they had," Laviolette said. "I thought they took us in most areas in the first period. The second period, I thought we were much more competitive, and the third period I liked what we did. We just didn't get it. We ran into a hot goaltender. We had some opportunities late and couldn't cash them in."
The Flyers' pursuit was made more difficult when they took three penalties in the second period. Nonetheless, they went into the third trailing only by 2-1 after James van Riemsdyk chipped a Claude Giroux pass by goalie Johan Hedberg with 20 seconds remaining in the period.
Frequently, a goal late in a period fuels a team for the next, and the ice did tilt in the Flyers' direction in the third. But Hedberg wouldn't relent. He made terrific saves on Jeff Carter and Danny Briere late in the period, and Giroux hurt the Flyers' cause by taking an ill-advised cross-checking penalty with 2 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the third. So when Boucher was pulled, the Flyers didn't have the advantage of an extra skater. Still, Briere twice came within a blink of tying the game.
"I had a couple chances," Briere said. "Once on a wraparound I even got my own rebound. I probably could have held it a little longer. But it's always easy to say after the fact. The chances were there."
As for Sunday's matchup in Chicago, Timonen just shrugged.
"To me, it's last year," he said. "It's a new year. Obviously, going back to Chicago is something special, but to me it's just another game."
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.