"You get into that point of the season where you just have mental lapses here and there," Carle said. "Guys aren't bearing down on plays that are usually routine. Whether that's a turnover, missed assignment covering someone, or just a combination of things. It adds a level of frustration when you know that guys can make those easy plays and they're not being executed."
Carle said he thought part of the reason for the sharp downturn was that the Flyers had entered many games this year simply expecting to win. It was almost as if the Flyers forgot how to respond after losing.
"There's been games this year where we've played so well that you expect to win," Carle said. "Not that it's going to be easy, but you go into games knowing that everything's going to be going right. The last four games, we were losing, and it made it that much more difficult to expect that those things were going to be happening."
Carle - and many of the other Flyers - have all gone through a situation like that at one point or another. Carle said he first experienced it on his University of Denver team that eventually won a national title after running through the NCAA's seasonlong gauntlet.
"I don't think it matters what kind of team you're on - whether it's a last-place team or a first-place team - you're going to have struggles," Carle said. "You look at Pittsburgh a couple years ago, they were out of the playoffs with a couple months to go [before rallying to win the 2009 Stanley Cup].
"Even Chicago last year, they had to find their game. There's always thing to draw on and things to learn from. That's why the schedule is 82 games, it's not going to be easy. It's how you deal with those struggles."
The Blackhawks went 6-7-2 in March last season. They closed out the regular season with a 6-3-1 to finish with 112 points, just one point back of San Jose for the top seed in the Western Conference.
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson, who has been following the Flyers closely with the two teams squaring off twice in the span of 7 days, said yesterday he thought the Flyers looked like they had gotten bored.
"All of the teams who get to the top get bored and let their game slip a little bit," Wilson said before the game. "Getting whacked by the Rangers [7-0 on Sunday], I'm sure got them focused."
Refocusing now, before the games start to count for real in mid-April, Carle said, can only be a positive for the Flyers.
"In the long run, if we come out of it on a positive note, it's going to help us," Carle said. "Things get crazy in the playoffs. There are ups and downs; we saw that last year. Knowing we can correct things midstride - especially during the playoffs - and right that ship quickly, it will be good."
Despite playing in the Flyers' last three games after missing one with a hand/wrist contusion, Chris Pronger was scratched last night with an upper-body injury that appears to be a reaggravation of the same injury.
Pronger took part in the morning skate and remained on the ice for an extra 30 minutes with assistant coach Kevin McCarthy for extra skating.
Pronger is day-to-day, according to general manager Paul Holmgren. His absence paved the way for defenseman Nick Boynton's first game as a Flyer since being picked up on waivers on Feb. 26. Boynton shook off the rust in his first game since Feb. 7, as he was scratched for 18 of his last 22 games with Chicago.