Flyers' season ends with Game 7 loss to Rangers

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Flyers' season ends with Game 7 loss to Rangers

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NEW YORK – Most times, words simply can’t express the emotions players and teams go through after a Game 7 loss.

It’s more gut-wrenching to lose a Game 7 than to get swept in four straight.

Trying to find an answer as to why the Flyers bowed out of the playoffs Wednesday night with a stunning 2-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay) isn’t easy because there is no simple answer.

Or maybe there is, Flyers coach Craig Berube offered.

“The first few games we didn’t initiate enough or play with enough aggressiveness as a team,” he said. “We would have had another win there, maybe. Our game, overall, we didn’t play our best hockey in the series.”

They didn’t.

And yet, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was superb. He could not be faulted after turning aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced. The Rangers should have had four or five goals in the second period when he faced 18 shots.

“He was great -- our goalies did a great job for us and kept us in all the games,” Berube said. “We let them win the second period.”

Mason, incidentally, divulged he had been suffering from a concussion when he missed the first three games of the series.

By all rights, the Flyers, who had such a strong second period in Game 6 -- three goals -- were an utter mess on both sides of the puck in the middle frame. Both of the Rangers' goals came that period. Even worse, they were scored after two horrible Flyers power plays that acted as momentum shifts for New York.

If there are two stats that will haunt the Flyers they are as follows: In the four games the Flyers lost in the series, their power play was 1 for 13. In the three games they won, it was 5 for 8.

The other side of it was the Flyers killed off 21 consecutive Rangers power plays and New York still won the series. Go figure.

“Sometimes it’s clicking and sometimes it doesn’t,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s too bad. We got two opportunities today and if we scored a goal on it, it would be different. But it’s too early to get on it and think about it that way.”

As good as the Flyers' power play was overall in the series -- 6 for 21 -- the two botched ones that period were crucial in defeat.

“Special teams are obviously very important,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “They are very aggressive and they played well on the PK tonight.”

The Rangers had two shorthanded chances on those two Flyers power plays, better than the two shots the Flyers mustered with the man advantage.

Dan Carcillo, serving a penalty for too many men on the ice, got the first goal at 3:06, well after a Flyers power play ended. But he was still on the ice coming out of the box. Braydon Coburn -- minus-6 in the series -- left Carcillo alone.

The second failed power play saw some tic-tac-toe passing by the Rangers after it expired with Benoit Pouliot, who was in the box for goalie interference, getting the eventual game-winner.

Four Rangers scored goals in the series on the same shift leaving the penalty box.

“We moved the puck well, had a couple chances,” Claude Giroux said. “We have to make sure it goes in the net. It’s Game 7. You lose 2-1.

“It doesn’t get closer than that. I think we did a good job staying in the battle. We have a lot of character in this room. For a young team, I think it’s great. This is only going to make it stronger.”

As bad as the second period was, the Flyers got back in the game when rookie Jason Akeson scored off his own blocked shot early in the third on Henrik Lundqvist to make it a nail-biter.

That goal gave the Flyers a shot of adrenalin. The Flyers began a push but the Rangers answered with stronger defense around Lundqvist.

“It was all positive [on the bench],” Akeson said. “Everyone was giving it their all. It’s a tough way to go out, that’s for sure, when you’re expecting to win.”

That was the mindset because the Flyers had come back so many times before -- 11 comeback wins in the third period during the regular season. Not this time.

The game ended on a series of Rangers icings, one debatable with less than three ticks left on the clock that saw a faceoff at center ice instead of in the Rangers' zone.

That didn’t lose the game or the series for the Flyers.

“Everyone feels lousy,” Berube said. “But I’m proud of my players. They went through a lot this year. We were stuck in a hole for a while and they battled out of it.

“Stuck together and went to a Game 7. I’m proud of them. They’re a great bunch of guys and there’s a lot of character in our locker room.”

Indeed, they did, climbing out of a 1-7 grave in October to resurrect their season and playoff chances by the end.

“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Voracek said. “You come so close, do or die and lose that critical Game 7. That’s hockey. We got to make sure and learn from it and use it in the future.”

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.