10 observations from Flyers-Rangers

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10 observations from Flyers-Rangers

Ten random observations from the Flyers’ 2-1 victory the New York Rangers (see Instant Replay).

Let’s start with some positives -- the Flyers finally won a game, after all.

1. Finally, some excitement! Seriously -- after a week off following that wretched loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was refreshing to see Matt Read hit the back of the net on a shorthanded breakaway Thursday night. I was at the Eagles game on Sunday, and I admit I was worried I’d have to watch a third straight game of, well, tedious play. Of course, it’s a shame that goal was neither five-on-five nor on the power play -- situations in which the Flyers really need to connect.

2. Nine games in to the 2013-14 season, the Flyers still haven't scored three goals in a game. But hey, it was nice to see them win a game 2-1, instead of lose one.

3. But the power play … ouch. At the end of this one, the Flyers had registered one goal in their last 25 opportunities on the man advantage. That’s not going to cut it -- especially when they squander opportunities like they had late in the second and early in the third against the Rangers: A five-minute power play. It’s curious why they’ve struggled so blatantly on the power play this season, considering even last year they were third-best in the league and it’s not as if their roster has changed wildly.

4. I’m sticking with the negative here for a bit, so bear with me. But did it seem to anyone else that the Flyers weren’t doing the one thing they’ve been saying all along they need to do? That is, keep things simple? Instead of the game plan -- peppering rookie Rangers goalie Cam Talbot with as many shots as possible and through lots of traffic -- too many times they tried to make a pretty play, or an extra pass, or some other unnecessary move.

5. Benoit Pouliot’s hit on Max Talbot: One of the scariest plays you’ve seen in hockey recently? That kind of hit from behind, unintentional though it might be, is exactly what the NHL is looking to eliminate from the game. Pouliot received a five-minute major (not that it really benefited the Flyers) as well as a game misconduct and will possibly receive a call from the league’s discipline office. However, the fact that Talbot returned to the game will likely save him from serving any kind of suspension.

6. Was Vinny Lecavalier really ready to return tonight? Yes, his skating is nowhere near where it was, say, five years ago, even when he’s healthy. But the Flyers’ center-turned-winger was not moving well at all Thursday night. This isn’t the time of year to rush back from injuries -- could he have been pushing it, wanting desperately to return and try to help his team out of its funk? Either way, not an impressive performance from the veteran Lecavalier against the Rangers.

7. For those reasons, I’m not ready to pass judgment on the Claude Giroux-Lecavalier experiment. Yet. I still think it’s a combination that could work, and eventually jump-start both players. Giroux needs a winger who’s able to not just accept a sneaky pass, but hold onto the puck and make a necessary play. He hasn’t really had one of those since … wait for it … Jaromir Jagr.

8. The Flyers made Cam Talbot look good. True, it can be tough to prepare for a rookie goaltender, but this guy isn’t the second coming of Henrik Lundqvist. By now, you probably saw the stat of the day: In college, Read (Bemidji State) had 12 goals and 12 assists in 13 games when facing Cam Talbot in college (Alabama-Huntsville).

9. Braydon Coburn’s goal, which brought the score to 2-1, was his second of the season. And that means he, a defenseman, is second on the Flyers in goal-scoring. That’s not acceptable, if the team wants to win games, that is.

10. So what do the Flyers need? At this point it’s obvious they need something, right? Is it just that they need the kids -- Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek -- to elevate their games? Or do they actually need help to be brought in from the outside? My opinion -- and I wrote about this in last week’s Random Observations -- is that they need help on offense. But who, and how? That’s the question.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.