NHL Wrap: Isles win, inch closer to playoffs

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NHL Wrap: Isles win, inch closer to playoffs

The Flyers kept their slim playoff chances alive on Tuesday night with a 4-2 victory over the Rangers (see recap).

They can thank goalie Steve Mason, who recorded 38 saves in his home debut.

“Yeah, it was an important game for myself and the team,” Mason said. “As a hockey player, you want to be part of it. It was a must-win. A playoff race with them being the eighth playoff spot right now. It was a good performance to win.”

Now, here's a quick recap of the other action Tuesday night in the NHL:

Islanders win, move closer to playoff berth
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Michael Grabner scored twice and Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves as the New York Islanders moved closer to a playoff berth with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Playing before a boisterous crowd at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders earned their ninth time in 12 games while playing their final regular-season home game. The Islanders, 10-11-3 at home after starting 2-8-1, will begin a season-ending, five-game trip on Thursday in Toronto.

With a 14-5-3 mark since March 1, the Islanders hold seventh place in the Eastern Conference. New York, seeing its first postseason appearance since 2007, has allowed two goals or fewer in nine straight games.

Matt Moulson, Mark Streit and Radek Martinek also scored for the Islanders, who bounced back from a 1-0 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Red-hot Capitals win eighth straight
WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 28th goal, and the Washington Capitals enjoyed a rare feeling of dominance outside their division Tuesday night, winning their eighth straight with a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jack Hillen, Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson also scored, and Braden Holtby made 29 saves for the Southeast Division-leading Capitals.

The Capitals have moved into playoff position by feasting on the weak Southeast, going 14-3 within the division, but they entered Tuesday's game just 9-14-2 against the rest of the Eastern Conference. All but two of those nine wins were by one goal.

So it was a major morale boost that they were able to manhandle Toronto, which is closing in on the franchise's first playoff berth since 2004 (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Blues take down Canucks in shootout
ST. LOUIS -- Jay Bouwmeester tied the score midway through the third period, and Andy McDonald and Alex Steen scored in the shootout to lead the Blues to a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

Brian Elliott made 21 saves in regulation and stopped Derek Roy and Alexandre Burrows in the shootout, solidifying the Blues' chances in a tight Western Conference race. Bowmeester's goal was his first since joining the Blues in a trade-deadline deal.

Alexander Edler scored on a power play late in the second period for Vancouver. Cory Schneider made 35 saves in regulation but surrendered two goals on three shootout chances.

The Canucks played for the third time in four nights, all on the road (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

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.