Michael Leighton was named as the Game 6 starter for Philadelphia by coach Peter Laviolette Tuesday. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA – In a development that rockets to No. 1 on the “Well, duh,” list, Michael Leighton will get the start for the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final. Closely behind at No. 2 is the fact the Flyers have to play much better in front of him if they hope to get to Game 7.
“Do you know who is starting in net for Chicago? Did they announce that yet?” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette when asked whether he had made a decision on his starting goalie. “Our goaltender has the best numbers in the playoffs. I didn’t think I had to announce it.”
Funny, because Laviolette essentially created this for no good reason in the first place by not using the off-day Monday to express his confidence in Leighton by naming him the starting goalie and quelling any speculation. Had Brian Boucher come in and stoned the Blackhawks in his two stints in the net, it might have been a different story. But the Flyers have little choice. Their hopes for a Stanley Cup are tethered to Leighton and they know it.
And he’s right, basically, about Leighton’s numbers. His 2.34 goals-against average and three shutouts lead all playoff goalies. His .918 save percentage is second (for goalies who made it past the first round) behind Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens, despite the fact Leighton has just an .867 save percentage in the Stanley Cup final.
“I don’t think we’re too worried about it, we’ve seen this story before,” said Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger. “I’m not too worried about him and I don’t think anybody else is, either.”
Laviolette was certainly expressing confidence in his goaltending Tuesday, pointing out that both his goaltender and his team have a playoff habit of following up very bad performances with very good ones.
“It seems as though we’ve let our goaltending down at times on the road,” Laviolette said. “We seem to play a better game at home in front of our goaltender. When our game has gone bad, usually we have a bad outing and everybody takes part in that. But our home game, our record is excellent. I don’t think we should have lost a game at home yet in the playoffs.”
That will have to be the case again in Game 6 and to do that, the Flyers will have to somehow limit the Blackhawks’ speed through the neutral zone the way they did in the first four games. After seizing the momentum by winning Games 3 and 4, the Flyers came out in Game 5 and had the deer-in-the-headlights look as the Blackhawks came at them in waves.
“I expect us to get back to the way we’ve played throughout the series,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards. “(Game 5) was obviously just a blip, hopefully. We’re going to have to play physical and play hard and relentless and fast-paced if we’re going to have a chance to win.”
In the name of objective journalism, the Chicago Tribune ran a full-page poster Tuesday of Chris Pronger wearing a figure skater’s dress. The caption on the poster read: “Looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane.”
Pronger, who wears the black hat quite well and was booed every time he touched the puck in the Chicago games, was not fazed by the attention.
“I don’t read what you (media) guys write, good or bad,” Pronger said. “Next question. I really couldn’t care less, to be honest with you. I’m worried about playing the game.”
HE KNOWS HOW IT FEELS
Laviolette wants to send the Blackhawks to Chicago with the same sinking feeling he had in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes when the Oilers defeated his team in Edmonton to force Game 7.
“It was nauseating,” Laviolette said of the Oilers’ 4-0 win in Game 6. “I remember I went back to the hotel in Edmonton and I almost threw up. To get that close and have an opportunity to get it…and Game 5 (a 4-3 overtime win for the Oilers) wasn’t much better. We were winning and they tied it up late and we went on the power play in overtime and they scored on a shorthanded goal in our building with the Cup being polished up out back. That hurt.”
Ken Campbell is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily blogs until a champion is crowned.
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