Holmgren hopes Flyers hit rock bottom in rout

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Holmgren hopes Flyers hit rock bottom in rout

BOX SCORE

It got so bad, general manager Paul Holmgren left his suite high atop the Wells Fargo Center after the second period to address the Flyers himself.

At that point, they were trailing 6-0 to the Alexander Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals, on their way to an eventual 7-0 thrashing (see Instant Replay).

Friday night was the worst the Flyers have looked in a season defined so far by its ugly hockey -- and the GM’s attempt to wake up his team after 40 minutes wasn’t able to accomplish a thing. 

Is this rock bottom?

“I hope so,” Holmgren said.

To add injury to insult, the Flyers lost two key players to fights Friday night. Vinny Lecavalier has a facial injury and will miss at least Saturday’s game. Steve Downie was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after the game. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion, resulting from a second-period fight with Caps winger Aaron Volpatti.

“It’s embarrassing to play in front of our fans and lose 7-0 like that,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s unacceptable. We need to figure it out.”

The thing is, the Flyers actually started the game with some jump. They had early pressure on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, and held the Caps without a shot for the first 15 minutes.

But once they allowed center Nicklas Backstrom to score -- on just the team’s second shot of the night -- everything crumbled. The Flyers stopped skating. They committed turnover after turnover. They could barely carry the puck past the red line. 

“The second period was pretty rough,” Holmgren said. “I thought we played pretty good for 15 minutes, and once they scored the first goal, we kind of just stopped playing. I think we just seem like we’re afraid to play the game right now, and we’re afraid to make plays, afraid to battle for pucks, afraid to skate after pucks.

“It’s tough to watch. I’m sure the players are very embarrassed like we all are. We’ve got to do better than that.”

The Flyers, obviously, are frustrated. The coaches are frustrated. The general manager himself is, too.

But no one has taken the Flyers’ rough start harder than the fans. To that end, before the second period had even come to a conclusion, “Fire Holmgren” chants rang out loud enough for the GM to hear. When the horn sounded to kick off the second intermission, loud boos filled the Wells Fargo Center.

Holmgren understands where it’s coming from.

“I can’t blame the fans,” he said. “We’re as frustrated as they are. If I was sitting in the stands, I’m not sure I’d be chanting, but I might be thinking the same thing. It’s part of the business.”

After Joel Ward had registered a hat trick, after Backstrom’s two goals and the tallies from Troy Brouwer and Jason Chimera, things truly deteriorated.

It started with a fight between Wayne Simmonds and Tom Wilson. Suddenly, Ray Emery was skating across the ice to take out his frustrations on Holtby, who wanted nothing to do with the fight. A complete line brawl ensued, resulting in 114 penalty minutes.

The time during the fights was the only time Friday the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center rose to its feet and cheered.

“Frustration shows sometimes that way,” Emery said. “We all grew up playing hockey, and sometimes that happens -- you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but we don’t take losses like that.”

Emery was kicked out of the game after his fight, and very well might receive a suspension for his actions. Steve Mason, who had been pulled after allowing the game’s third goal, went back in. He actually played well ‘til the final horn, too.

Where do they go from here? Where can they go from here?

“We go play a game tomorrow,” head coach Craig Berube said, referencing Saturday’s game in Newark against the Devils.

“Pick yourself up and go play. That’s it. Everybody’s been involved in these games before, they’re not fun obviously, but we can’t sit there and dwell on it, you’ve got to go play a game tomorrow. We’ll go compete tomorrow, work hard. That’s what you do.”

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.