It isn't easy, what the Flyers accomplished here over the last few weeks.

They clinched a division title Saturday night while managing, at the same time, to tamp down what were once sky-high postseason expectations. If the Flyers are more comfortable in the role of stalking horse than pacesetter, their recent free fall accomplished that for them.

"It's a big relief," winger Scott Hartnell said, referring to the merciful end of the regular season. "To be honest, I can't really remember our last regular-season win. We don't really remember the problems now. We've got the postseason coming up."

If there is one reason to believe the Flyers can snap out of their trance and go on a long playoff run, it was not their needed but joyless 7-4 victory over the New York Islanders.

It is Chris Pronger.

Since the big defenseman broke his hand a month ago, the Flyers have won six games. They have lost 10, including four shootouts and two overtime games. Worse, they have played without the edge, the heart, the urgency that will be absolute necessities when the playoffs begin this week.

"We've got some playoff performers on our team," Hartnell said. "Prongs will be back soon, hopefully. Everyone is on the same page."

No Pronger, no chance for the Stanley Cup. If that theory seems simplistic, it probably is. The rest of the Flyers, from captain Mike Richards to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky should, by all means, feel free to prove that theory wrong. They haven't done much in the last month.