Big miscues send Flyers to third straight loss

slideshow-041113-flyers-giroux-uspresswire.jpg

Big miscues send Flyers to third straight loss

BOX SCORE

Ill-timed line changes and defensive pair switches are among the problems causing the Flyers' downfall this season.

Too often, they’ve resulted in breakaway goals.

In a lethargic game that lacked for excitement and entertainment, yet remained tightly defensive, that’s exactly how the Flyers lost Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Two Flyer mistakes was all Ottawa needed in a 3-1 victory that further dimmed the Flyers' fading playoff hopes, though they remained seven points behind the eighth-seeded Rangers in the Eastern Conference.

“Just miscommunication,” Luke Schenn said. “That’s two breakdowns, two goals off the rush … To give that up at the end of the game, pretty much not being aware of who is around you. It backfired on us. It’s a bad goal to give up at a bad time.”

You rarely see a team ice the puck on the penalty kill, have a line change, then get beat cleanly on a breakaway. Worse, for the game winner.

“There was a line change and missed coverage,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They had been bringing five guys back the entire night on their power-play breakouts.

“This last time they brought four back and one guy stretched. From the change, we missed him.”

That’s how Colin Greening broke a 1-1 tie at 14:24 of the third period with Claude Giroux sitting in the box serving a four-minute, high-sticking penalty.

“We had tried a different power-play breakout where we had put five guys back and I think they were used to that,” Greening said.

“So when they put me on instead of Gui (Guillaume Latendresse), I was the one that was kind of hanging back and trying to keep the defensemen back.

“Luckily, their defense kind of parted and I just saw an opening … and I was able to get a break.”

Ottawa’s first goal in the opening minutes of play saw the Flyers’ Bruno Gervais and Kimmo Timonen coming onto the ice on a late change as Zack Smith was streaking up the middle with no defensemen within a zip code of him.

“Not too sure what happened on those goals to be honest,” Giroux said. “The first one I just got off, so I wasn’t too sure.

“We’ve gotta make sure we make less mistakes and when it’s close like that, find a way to be better defensively for the whole 60 minutes and if you give the other team a chance to score.”

Did we mention the Senators had lost five straight much like the Winnipeg Jets last Saturday before they met the Flyers?

Following two straight losses that have seen the Flyers drift seven points behind a playoff spot, Laviolette re-arranged all four of his lines.

The biggest change saw Simon Gagne elevated to Giroux’s line with Jakub Voracek. Since his arrival, Gagne has demonstrated more jump in his skates than any other player and he’s 33, too.

Seven minutes after Smith’s breakaway, Gagne helped tie it by assisting on a Giroux shorthanded goal.

Gagne’s initial shot from the left circle was blocked. Gagne retrieved the puck in the high slot, spun around and shot again as Giroux redirected it on rookie goalie Robin Lehner.

It remained 1-1 going into the third period.

The Flyers began the third with a runover power play from the second period and did nothing. They quickly got another power play. Did nothing with that one, as well.

Incredibly, they came into play No. 2 overall on the power play in the NHL (22.9 percent). They are now 0 for 13 over their last five games.

“Yeah, we had some chances,” Giroux said. “We had some good chances. But sometimes it’s going to go in, sometimes it won’t. I think we were moving the puck well there, it just wasn’t going in.”

That is why all it takes these days for a Flyers' loss is a couple of miscues.

“There were two [breakaways] in the first period and in a game where you’re trying to stay alive, to give up breakaways doesn’t get the team going in the right direction,” Mike Knuble said.

“Our second time in the first period was a lot better than our first. They got one goal, but we’re lucky they didn’t get two or three by the time we tried to respond.”

The Flyers' urgency really didn’t kick in until the final period.

“It was a 1-1 game going into the third and our power play doesn’t capitalize, but theirs does,” Knuble said.

Indeed, the game was up for grabs.

“There is an opportunity to win,” Laviolette said. “I actually thought the third period was our best period. We generated the most offense.

“It was probably the tightest defensively we played that period and didn’t get the result we were looking for.”

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.