Flyers were a mess in loss to Oilers as playoff hopes fade

Flyers were a mess in loss to Oilers as playoff hopes fade

EDMONTON, Alberta — Take away all the hype surrounding the Brandon Manning-Connor McDavid saga, what are the Flyers left with on Friday?

Well, it’s not good.

Lost in translation from Thursday’s 6-3 Oilers spill is the numbing reality that for the first time in eight games, Dave Hakstol’s team was a mess.

Defensively, the Flyers were scrambling in their own end, two steps behind the play. Their forwards were lost somewhere on the Macleod Trail leaving Calgary, trying to backcheck and goalie Michal Neuvirth looked subpar from the get-go.

That’s a recipe for disaster and a blowout loss, which is what happened eight games ago in Carolina when the Flyers were crushed, 5-1.

“That second period there, we fell asleep. Well, not asleep, but they got some chances and they capitalized on them,” Brayden Schenn said. “In the third, we made a push, but weren’t able to come back.”

And the cherry on top? The Flyers have now lost five of their last six games and have finally been eclipsed by a team behind them.

“We needed a much better job from our team, that’s for sure,” Radko Gudas said.

Hakstol went with seven defensemen in the Oilers’ loss to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup but it backfired when Jordan Weal went down with an upper-body injury. Weal said he was “OK” after the game.

That left 10 forwards to play the remainder of the game against one of the fastest clubs in the league. Truth is, the Flyers couldn’t match the Oilers' speed. Players were forced to double shift which is why Schenn, for instance, had a season-high 22:35 in ice time.

“The guys did a good job, we battled hard and, obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We kept going and pushing. We didn’t give up."

For months now, the Flyers have looked over their shoulders at a struggling Islanders club, which appeared as a vague shape in their rearview mirror.

Well, the Isles' win over the Rangers on the same night the Flyers lost, moved them ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division to fifth place, dropping the Flyers (61 points) to sixth in the division and 10th overall in the East.

Hakstol’s club remains two points behind Toronto in the second wild-card spot, but the Islanders, Florida and even Buffalo are right with them. 

The Isles have 62 points with two games in hand. The Panthers have 60 points with three games in hand. Buffalo has 60 points, but has played the same number of games (58) as the Flyers.

It would be an understatement to say the playoffs are quickly fading from the Flyers' list of possibilities.

One of the inherent advantages of playing teams in the West is you can collect points with a win without having to worry about a head-to-head loss because there’s no direct impact within your division.

There is, however, the indirect effect of a loss to the Western club when your division foes are all winning games, and that’s what has happened on this trip.

“It’s not much consolation because we didn’t get the two points,” Simmonds said. “We’ve got to start over and figure things again for Vancouver.”

Given how things have gone lately, there’s little to grasp in the Flyers' overall play that would suggest they’ll somehow salvage two points on Sunday night in Vancouver against the Canucks.

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.