Flyers undone by missed power-play chances

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Flyers undone by missed power-play chances

The Flyers looked good on the power play. Really good.

They had fans in the packed Wells Fargo Center on their feet Wednesday night at times during each of their seven power-play chances. There were pretty plays, lightning-fast shots -- everything you could ask for in a hockey game.

Except for the goals, though. There weren’t enough of those.

The Flyers were a disappointing 1 for 7 on the man advantage in their season opener, a sizable contributing factor to their 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs (see story). They looked strong and the effort was there, but it was all for nothing in the end.

“We’re doing the right things out there,” Claude Giroux said. “I had a couple of good shots, Hartsy (Scott Hartnell) had a one-timer in the slot and I think [Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan] Bernier got a glove on it, and Kimmo [Timonen] had a couple shots.

“The puck was going to the net. We had our chances, but we just couldn’t put it in.”

In total, the Flyers sent 13 shots in on net during the man advantage, but sent plenty more high or wide. Only Brayden Schenn was able to connect, with just seven seconds left on the clock in the first period.

It should have been a momentum changer.

“Definitely [frustrating],” said Vinny Lecavalier, who assisted Schenn’s goal. “I thought we moved the puck around pretty well. Both units had many chances. Grade-A chances, but couldn’t put it away.”

Last season, as you might recall, the Flyers actually excelled on the power play. They were third in the league and unstoppable at times. It was their even-strength play, then, that thwarted their postseason chances (they were actually successful on the kill, as well, ranked fifth in the league).

This year, though, they’re supposed to be even better on special teams. Two of the big offseason additions, Mark Streit and Lecavalier, were hyped not just as overall improvements but as power-play specialists, too.

Instead, the Flyers allowed far too many missed opportunities, which not only hurt them on the scoreboard but emotionally benefited the Maple Leafs.

“I really believe that when you kill a penalty, you get momentum,” Giroux said. “We had our chances. It’s frustrating because power play was clicking, ours and the other one. It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to stay positive. It’s only one game.”

Coach Peter Laviolette, actually, was positive when asked to reflect on his team’s power-play performance.

“I think the power play did a good job,” Laviolette said. “Both the units were able to get in and get the scoring opportunities and the looks they wanted. It would have been nice if one or two more could have fallen, but it didn’t happen.”

Of course, a lot of credit is due to Bernier, the Leafs’ goalie, who completely kept his team in the game, even through a stretch of 12:13 during which the Leafs failed to register a single shot. The Flyers sent 32 total shots in on him Wednesday night.

Had they been facing any other netminder, perhaps, there’d have been a much different outcome.

“He just battled and stopped the puck,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “Any of the loose pucks that were around, he seemed to have the ability to scoop up with his trapper or his blocker. He grabbed pucks and when there were loose pucks around he didn’t get many of the second opportunities.”

The Flyers now have a couple days of practice before they travel to Montreal on Saturday to face the Canadiens. In preseason, they were good at identifying mistakes and working to correct them. It's not that their power-play was a "mistake" per se, but there’s no doubt that after the loss to the Leafs they know what they’ll have to work on.

“Sometimes you get caught in those games where you feel like you are out-chancing them,” Schenn said. “… We did create some chances there, and we just have to find a way to finish -- and finish teams when you are getting those chances."

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.