Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7

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Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

They talked about a different attitude. One with a little vim and vinegar.

They talked about making Henrik Lundqvist do some work. Make some saves. Move for some rebounds.

They talked about playing the kind of Flyers hockey they played in the second half of the regular season to earn a playoff berth but hadn’t been seen yet in these playoffs.

“The passion and skating and tenacity was really good tonight,” coach Craig Berube said.

Everything came together Tuesday night in Game 6, as the Flyers thumped the Rangers 5-2 at Wells Fargo Center to set up Wednesday’s Game 7 in New York at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay).

“I’ve been to one in junior but never in the NHL,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s do or die like it was today for us, just got to go and see what happens.”

The Rangers could have closed the Flyers out. Now the Flyers can close them out.

Wayne Simmonds had a big Game 6 with his first career playoff hat trick (see story). No player in the NHL had ever scored a playoff hat trick on Lundqvist until now (see video).

Who knows what’s in store for Wednesday?

“We take the positives from this and keep it rolling into [Wednesday] night,” Simmonds said. “It’s great that we’re having it back to back. The other games, we had a couple days off.

“That’s why you saw the series go one, one, one, one. Teams had time to regroup. Now we've got the momentum and can keep our foot on the pedal.”

He didn’t do it alone. Actually, the guy who carried the bulk of the load was goalie Steve Mason, who faced 36 shots and was nothing short of spectacular (see highlights).

Mason had two point-blank saves on Rick Nash and Anton Stralman. Plus, he added one enormous momentum save on Benoit Pouliot during a Rangers power play that ended seconds later with Erik Gustafsson bursting out of the penalty box for a breakaway goal that made it 3-0 and pretty much ended the game in the second period (see story).

Gustafsson was the replacement for Hal Gill who was the replacement for Nick Grossmann (ankle surgery).

“The whole game he was great and he has to be,” Berube said. “Our whole team did a much better job in the first period. We were more aggressive and got that [power-play] goal, which was huge and it put us in a good spot the rest of the game.”

He said the Flyers displayed more “passion” in this game.

“A more aggressive mindset that brings it out,” Berube added. “Our guys want to win. They brought a little more tonight, more tenacity in staying in the battles for loose pucks and blocking shots. You need that in the playoffs.”

Berube pushed the right buttons in this one with the addition of Gustafsson on defense and line changes that saw Michael Raffl on Claude Giroux’s line with Voracek and Scott Hartnell playing with Brayden Schenn and Simmonds (see 10 observations).

All those players combined for five goals and five assists for 10 points in the victory.

This win likely puts a little element of doubt in the Rangers’ minds.

This will be the Rangers' fourth Game 7 over the past three playoffs.

“Game 7s are what brings the best out in people,” the Rangers’ Brad Richards said. “It’ll be a hard-fought battle. We’re going home. We’ve had success in Game 7s, especially a lot of these guys in this room. That’s why we battled hard right to the end to get home ice.”

The Flyers feel since they won Game 2 up there, and have staked their claim all season as a team that plays best with its backs to the wall, they can do just that once again on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of character in this room and when we play a team game and the chemistry is doing very good on the ice, I think that’s when we’re successful,” Giroux said.

“Going back to the start of the year I think that’s what we were missing -- just playing as a team, everybody getting in the zone of the game and moving the puck. I think tonight was our best game of the series and hopefully it keeps going for Game 7.”

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.