As the newly crowned Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks were being saluted by an estimated two million fans during a parade Friday, the still-hurting Flyers - their playoff beards gone, their moods somber - were checking out of the Skate Zone in Voorhees and addressing the media.
Their message was clear: They think their remarkable Stanley Cup run will have a carryover effect into next season.
But the pain of their series-ending, 4-3 overtime loss to Chicago in Game 6 has not subsided. And defenseman Chris Pronger, who also lost in the 2006 Finals with Edmonton, suggested it may last until training camp.
"I think we have to remember how it hurts and how it feels - and learn from it, and it'll be better next year," said winger Scott Hartnell, who led both teams with five goals in the Finals.
Hartnell said Friday "was a little tough" because "we would have been playing Game 7."
"It's a weird feeling. You feel empty inside," veteran winger Simon Gagne said. "It's definitely worse than losing in the first round. You're right there, and everybody was thinking about the big picture and the end. It didn't happen, and it really, really hurts."
General manager Paul Holmgren said the players "feel like crap" about falling two wins shy of their goal. "The guys are down about it, and I'm hoping that translates into doing the work in the summer and hitting the ground running, because next season is not going to be any easier than this one," Holmgren said. "That's just the nature of the game."
Holmgren is preparing for the June 25-26 draft - along with the trade talks that accompany it - and the free-agency period that starts July 1.
"There's a lot that has to happen in the next 19 days," he said.
He called the team's mediocre regular season a "roller coaster."
The playoffs were a different story, as the Flyers reached the Finals for the first time since 1997.
"I'm hoping that's our team," Holmgren said. "I liked a lot of things I saw in the playoffs. . . . I thought our players played their hearts out. I'm proud of them, and disappointed for them in a way because of the way it ended."
It ended when Patrick Kane scored from a bad angle - putting a shot through Michael Leighton's pads - to give Chicago the overtime win at the deflated Wachovia Center.
Holmgren talked about how Hartnell and Danny Briere went through personal issues during the season but regrouped and were outstanding in the playoffs, especially in the Finals.
"What you saw in the end from some of the players was, I'd like to believe, the players that they are," Holmgren said.
Briere, who led NHL players with 30 playoff points, said he was ready to begin the 2010-11 season.
"Even now, I wish the season would start all over," he said. "I know we're all banged up and tired, but personally, I can't wait to get back and, hopefully, keep that chemistry going. It was such a fun ride, and I just want to get back as soon as I can."
Asked if the Flyers were going to make many off-season moves or some minor tweaks, Holmgren said "there's still some evaluating that's ongoing. Is it going to be the same team? That's probably highly unlikely just because things change - whether it's for salary cap reasons or other reasons."
The Flyers are about $9 million under the cap. Their main decision will be whether to re-sign Leighton, who is a potential unrestricted free agent, or go for a new No. 1 goalie.
Leighton had a solid season and was superb in the playoffs - until he slumped badly in the Finals, compiling a 3.96 goals-against average and .876 save percentage.
"We've got to be careful there in how we view him," Holmgren said. "I think Michael did an outstanding job for the team. I don't know if it's by design or not, but I haven't really watched the last goal [by Kane]. I saw it live, but then I left the box. I haven't seen a replay of it. I've heard a couple guys comment on it. I think it's unfair to view Michael in that [negative] light because he did some good things for us."