Giroux, Voracek carry Flyers to win over Capitals

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Giroux, Voracek carry Flyers to win over Capitals

BOX SCORE

It should not have become a nail-biter.

Not with a 4-0 lead and everything going so well and the Flyers having played two of their best opening 40 minutes all season, allowing just eight shots.

But it happened.

Luckily, their top line bailed them out and Steve Downie gave them a much-needed empt-netter to secure the Flyers’ wild 6-4 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

“They didn’t play the way they wanted the first two periods and we were and that third period they became aggressive and sat back a bit,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux.

“When we get a lead like that, we’ve got to keep it. The first two periods we were playing well and winning battles and we got away from it. We need to play 60 minutes.”

His line with Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek did yeoman’s work in the win with six points. Voracek and Giroux each had two goals.

Voracek’s second marker (18th overall), late in the game, gave the Flyers a 5-3 lead that would shrink again before Downie decided it with his empty-netter.

“They’re attacking and skating with speed,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube. “Making plays and working hard down low. Cycling the puck and competing. Power play, doing a good job.”

The victory kept the Flyers in second place in the Metro Division with 72 points -- two more than the third-place Rangers while dropping the Caps four points behind the pace.

Thing is, the Flyers made it look so easy, enjoying a 4-0 lead, chasing starting goalie Braden Holtby and even having an ‘ol fashioned brawl to get them going (see story).

So much early emotion may have distracted the Flyers from finishing the task as the Caps whittled down a 4-1 deficit in the third period thanks to the usual suspects -- bad penalties.

Did we mention the Flyers' usually adroit penalty-kill units gave up three power-play goals, as well?

“Penalties and a couple goofy goals,” Berube said. “Penalties. I haven’t looked at them yet or am sure if they were warranted, but it definitely gave them life.”

And nearly ruined all the good work early.

“It was good hockey. We were intense, we were quick, we were on things,” Berube said. “We had everybody going.”

Flyers goalie Steve Mason picked up his 26th victory but he looked like he was fighting the puck a bit in the third period when the Caps scored three goals.

“The first two periods we played some of the best hockey all season long,” Mason said. “Going into the third period, we stopped moving our feet, stopped playing the way we had been playing.

“They have offensive talent on that team and they can take advantage of sloppy play. That’s exactly what happened. We’re fortunate to come out of it with two points.”

The PK units had gone 6 for 6 against the Caps in the previous game but gave up three power-play goals in four chances on Wednesday.

“Couple bad breaks and any time you have [Alex] Ovechkin on the ice and try to focus on him, he can shoot the puck as well as anybody in the league,” Mason said. “They took advantage of it.”

Still, the Flyers survived, thanks to Giroux (two goals, 23 overall) and Voracek.

He and Voracek scored a combined seven goals against the Caps in this now completed home-and-home series, which includes Sunday’s 5-4 Flyers' overtime win in D.C.

This was the fifth time Giroux has had three or more points in a game. Over his last 11 games, he has nine goals and nine assists for 18 points. 

“When they are going, everybody follows,” Mason said of the top line. “We have to have that on a consistent basis moving forward because every game is so important.”

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.