Flyers' focus for 2014-15: Consistency

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Flyers' focus for 2014-15: Consistency

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s not a big, goal-scoring winger. It’s not a tough defenseman. It’s definitely not a top-rate goaltender.

In order to make it past the first round of the playoffs, the Flyers believe all they need is a little more consistency. 

“I don’t think we played too many full 60-minute hockey games in the playoffs,” Brayden Schenn said. “When you’re not playing 60 minutes in the playoffs, you’re not going to win.” 

Of the seven postseason games they played against the New York Rangers, the Flyers came closest to a consistent, 60-minute effort only in Game 6 a week ago at the Wells Fargo Center. But even that game started off with about five minutes of the Flyers running around in their own zone.

The series was, in a way, a microcosm of their season as a whole. When they played well -- like most of Game 6 -- they were practically unstoppable. When they played poorly, they played very poorly, no matter their opponent. But all along the way, they struggled to put in those elusive complete-game efforts.

That tendency to inexplicably stop executing for a period or so hurt them most when it mattered most -- Game 7. In the second period, they gave up the only two goals the Rangers needed to win the game and move on to the next round.

They know they were guilty of it, and they paid the price.

“I just think we tend to get away from our game too often,” Steve Mason said. “We can play 20 minutes, 40 minutes of unbelievable hockey and completely control our game, but we tend to get away from that a period at a time. Come playoffs, if you’re not going to gather a full 60 minutes, that’s what’s going to cost you. 

“I think in our first-round series, I don’t think there was a complete effort for a full 60 minutes, and that’s a frustrating point too, because we were one game left from coming away from that series and going to the next round. It’s disappointing to feel that we didn’t have a complete game throughout the whole series.”

Of course, the consistency issue isn’t just pertinent to the playoffs. The Flyers’ season as a whole was marked by inconsistency right from the beginning -- both on a game-by-game basis as well as overall. And not just a game or a period here and there; they were wildly inconsistent, beating the St. Louis Blues one week and struggling to keep pace with the Toronto Maple Leafs another.

Had they been just a bit more dependable during the season, they could have had home-ice advantage over the Rangers, who finished just two points ahead of them in the standings. 

“I think in the regular season we’ve got to be more consistent,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “I think from maybe the West Coast trip right before the [Olympic] break until the end, we played some pretty good hockey.

“… You don’t want to lose out in the first round, but Game 7s can go either way. We have to learn from it and players who have never been in that position grow from it, and get better as a team for next year.”

The Flyers believe their roster already looks good on paper (see story). There aren't any major missing pieces -- it wasn't a specific type of player or role player that kept them from advancing past the Rangers.

And looking ahead to 2015, that's what they plan to build on.

“We’ve just got to worry about how we play our game,” Claude Giroux said. “I think we did a lot of good things this year that we see what kind of team we are. 

“We have a lot of character in this room, and there’s a lot of positive.”

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.