Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

flyers-islanders-game-notes.jpg

Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

Losers of two straight at home and three out of their last four games, the Flyers (24-19-5) welcome the Islanders (19-23-7) to the Wells Fargo Center tonight.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (TCN).

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Savin’ Mase
It’s easy to point fingers at the goaltender when a team allows a lot of goals over a short period of time as the Flyers have recently. In their last four games (1-2-1), the Flyers have surrendered 17 goals.

Steve Mason has allowed 11 goals in his last three starts and 28 in his last 10. While he has struggled to keep the puck out of the net, it’s not completely Mason’s fault. The Flyers’ defense has missed assignments, turned the puck over and left its goalies out to dry.

A perfect example would be the Flyers’ 4-1 loss at Madison Square Garden last Sunday in Ray Emery’s last start. The Rangers had a three-goal first period, including two goals in the first 2:42.

Emery wasn’t his sharpest, but it certainly wasn’t all his fault. At least two of those four goals were pinned on defensemen missing assignments, turnovers and lackadaisical play. Point is, not many goalies would stop those pucks.

Even with the struggles to limit goals allowed, Mason is 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts. In games he’s given up three goals or more, he's made plenty of game-saving stops as he has all season long.

Confidence is a major factor in how well a goalie plays. If the Flyers continue to play poor team defense in front of Mason, it won’t be hard for him to lose his confidence.

And if that happens, the Flyers are in trouble. 

2. Andrej the giant
Andrej Meszaros has had a couple of rough seasons.

Injuries have plagued the 28-year-old the last few years, but he's just finally starting to look like the player who won the Barry Ashbee Trophy in his first year as a Flyer.

Meszaros has seven points in his last five games, including a goal and an assist in the Flyers' 4-3 shootout loss Thursday to Nashville.

He's still making mistakes in his own zone with turnovers and coverages, but he's making more of an impact offensively, which makes up for his defensive deficiencies.

It's the same deal as Mark Streit: Do what you're supposed to do -- move the puck, provide offense -- and the team can live with the mistakes.

And Thursday's game was the best Meszaros has looked in a long time. Can he keep it up tonight?

3. Tavares time
Is there a hotter player in the NHL right now than John Tavares?

Tavares has eight goals and 11 assists in his last 11 games. In three of those he tallied at least three points and four have been multi-point affairs. The Isles are 9-2-0 during the stretch.

And his linemates Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo are benefiting from Tavares to boot. Vanek has 14 points in his last 10 games and Okposo has 17 in his last 14.

In two games against the Flyers this season, the Islanders’ captain has a goal and an assist. Tavares has eight goals and seven assists in 18 career games against the Orange and Black. He has four goals and two assists in his last five games against the Flyers.

Tavares’ 57 points this year is second behind Sidney Crosby’s 68, and he has more points than some of the league’s elite scorers: Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane and Corey Perry, to name a few.

It’s time to start recognizing the 23-year-old as one of the top five players in the NHL.

4. Settling in strong
One of the biggest reasons the Islanders have fought themselves back into the playoff picture (only seven points out of a playoff spot) has been the play of Kevin Poulin.

Poulin has been strong in net for the Isles since Evgeni Nabokov went out with injury. The 23-year-old netminder is 5-1-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average in his last six games.

However, in two games against the Flyers this season, Poulin has given up seven goals on 47 shots against. On the year, he’s 10-13-0 with a 3.01 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage.

Goaltending has been the Islanders’ biggest wart all season. They’re 28th in the league with a team .896 save percentage. If Poulin can give them solid goaltending the rest of the way, the playoffs aren’t that far out of the picture in a weak Eastern Conference.

5. This and that
• The Islanders have only three wins (one regulation) in their last 19 trips to Philly.

• Since the 2007-08 season, the Flyers are 32-4-2 vs. the Islanders.

• Three of Matt Read’s 10 goals this season have come against the Islanders.

• The Islanders have won eight of their last nine road games. They lost 13 of their first 17 road games.

• The Islanders have lost 30 total games to Metro opponents this year.

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.