Sloppy second period dooms Flyers in loss to Sabres

Sloppy second period dooms Flyers in loss to Sabres

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Flyers have been at their best in the second period this season.

Except when they play the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres scored three times in the second period of Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the visiting Flyers (see Instant Replay). They also outscored the Flyers, 3-0, in the second period of their previous meeting on Oct. 25 at the Wells Fargo Center, before the Flyers came back for the 4-3 shootout win.

In their other 40 games, the Flyers have outscored opponents, 53-34, in the second period. They rank second in the NHL in second-period scoring behind the New York Rangers.

The Flyers were pleased with the way they played for two-thirds of Tuesday night’s game. But the wayward second doomed them to their ninth loss in 11 games.

“First and third, we played some good hockey and the second period was a little different,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We didn’t support each other as much. First and third period, we played as a unit of five. It makes our job a lot easier when we play together.”

Sam Reinhart’s power-play goal on a tight-angle wrist shot from the left side of the net gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 5:15 into the second period. The Flyers’ struggles snowballed from there.

“After we gave up the PP goal against, from there we didn’t check well the rest of the period. That was the difference,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Coming back into the zone on our rush coverage, we didn’t sort.”

That’s how the Sabres got their second goal 3:24 later. William Carrier was uncovered skating up the left side and beat Giroux to a rebound for a wrist shot that Steve Mason had little chance to stop.

“Unfortunately, in the second there we were off our game plan and we paid for it,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said.

Evander Kane gave Buffalo a 3-0 lead with just nine seconds left in the third period. Kane came up with the puck after it bounced off MacDonald’s skate and whistled a high wrist shot past Mason.

“It’s a tough one to give up,” MacDonald said. “Anything late in the third period like that. There’s a big difference between being down two and three going into the third. We had the same mindset going out. We knew we had to battle back. But the third one made it tougher.”

The Flyers were able to score three goals in the third period the last time the two teams met. But on Tuesday, they could only muster a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn — after Mason was pulled to make it 6-on-4 — with 2:07 remaining.

“In the third, we pressed hard,” MacDonald said. “But it was too little, too late.”

Mason said the Flyers’ second-period wounds were self-inflicted.

“We did it to ourselves,” Mason said. “We were sloppy and they came with speed off the rush and we’ve got to do a better job in the second period overall. I think when we go back and look at the tape, it was a lot of what we did wrong in the second and not what they did to force us. It was all our own doing.”

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.