Flyers must find a way to finish at the net

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Flyers must find a way to finish at the net

As good as the Flyers looked in playing a strong, overall game despite losing, 3-1, to Toronto in their season opener, they lacked in finishing at the net.
 
That is something that happened continually all last season.
 
You could make the argument that Game 1 resembled Game 16 or 26 or even 40 from last year. No finish, no goals.
 
The Flyers had 73 attempts at the net and just one goal against the Maple Leafs.
 
Viewed in that overall context, you could understand if they called up a scorer from the Phantoms to replace prospect Scott Laughton, who was sent back to his junior club in Oshawa.
 
And there’s the rub. The player they called up is more of an energy guy -- Kris Newbury (see story).
 
Yes, he’s been a consistent 62-point man in the AHL for the past three seasons. In some ways, he is the newest version of Peter White -- a bona fide minor-league scorer.
 
That’s just it, though. He’s not an NHL scorer, which is what they need instead of another Zac Rinaldo.
 
“It would be nice to bang a couple in,” Newbury said. “I don’t think they brought me up to put points on the board.”
 
It’s ironic that all the players who were vying for that extra forward spot on the final roster -- Laughton, Michael Raffl, Tye McGinn, Chris VanderVelde and Jason Akeson -- are all gone. None of them won the battle.
 
Instead, it now goes to the 31-year-old Newbury by default until someone else appears.
 
“He can play center or wing,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “He’s a good energy guy. If you’ve ever seen Newbury in the American League, he’s a good player.
 
“He comes up to the NHL whether it be with Detroit or the Rangers or Toronto a few years ago, he’s a plugger and a role player. He’s willing to mix it up. A good energy guy.”
 
Is that what the Flyers need right now?
 
“More energy or penalty killing or fourth-line guys is what we’re looking at,” Holmgren said. “Down in the American League, he plays on the power play. He has the ability to move up. He is a first- or second-line center in the American League who puts up points.”
 
Newbury was centering Akeson and McGinn on the Phantoms' first line. Again, he’s not been a proven goal guy at the NHL level -- just four goals and nine points in 72 NHL games.
 
Of course, it would help if the current group that can’t shoot straight start burying its chances.
 
“When you get chances to score, that is one thing,” Holmgren said. “We got to bear down and bury the ones we get. I would be more concerned if we weren’t getting opportunities.
 
“I do think we played a good game -- certainly well enough to win the game. The bottom line is we didn’t. Now we have to figure out a way to get back on the winning side. I thought we made a couple of mistakes at key times in the game that cost us. We have to eliminate those, too.”
 
A lot of what happened in the opener goes away if  the Flyers score on more than one of their seven power plays.
 
“There were lots of looks, good things,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I could think of times we were close as well. G (Claude Giroux) sifted one in there to Scotty (Hartnell) in the slot and he fired it and it just missed over the cross bar.
 
“There were lots of looks and in-zone and shots and maybe it hit a stick or redirected the wrong way or we weren’t in the right spot for a rebound. Again, there were good things on the power play.”
 
Just not enough goals. Again.

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.