Ville Leino has been an unsung hero for the Flyers ever since entering the lineup as an injury replacement for Jeff Carter in Game Five of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, and he penciled his name into the history books Friday night.
Leino scored his seventh goal of the postseason in the Flyers nail-biting 5-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of the Stanley Cup finals to send the series back to the Windy City tied at two.
The 26-year-old rookie's goal moved him into sole possession of the Flyers playoff rookie scoring record with 16 points, surpassing Brian Propp, who scored 15 points in the 1980 Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It was a special moment,” Leino said. “It was a fun game. It was a nice little moment. I will remember it always. Good win there too, so it was a great game.”
His story is an amazing one to follow considering how the Flyers acquired him, and what he has become from where he was at the start of the playoffs for the Orange and Black.
The Flyers traded away defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a fifth-round draft choice to the Detroit Red Wings for Leino on Feb. 6th, a move that was going to provide Philadelphia with another scoring threat.
Instead, Leino had difficulties cracking Peter Laviolette's lineup as it appeared that the coach and GM Paul Holmgren had different opinions about the Finnish winger, who had been a fourth-liner for the Wings.
It took Leino nearly a month to play his first game with Philadelphia—not that bad if you account for the Olympic break—and couldn't play with enough consistency to stay in the lineup for more than one or two games.
Simply put, he wasn't showing anything to Laviolette to justify taking Arron Asham or Darroll Powe out of the lineup, who both play important roles for the Broad Street Bullies.
Leino scored only four points in 13 regular season games with the Flyers, and was an extra forward entering the opening round of the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils.
Despite playing in seven postseason games with Detroit, including the Stanley Cup Finals, Leino didn't have a chance to play until center Jeff Carter broke his foot in Game Four versus the Devils, opening up a spot for the Savonlinna native.
With Carter out of the lineup, the Flyers needed Leino to put together some consistency while providing them with another scoring threat. They have received far more than what they were asking.
Leino has scored seven goals and nine assists in 17 games playing with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell. In the Stanley Cup finals against Chicago, Leino has four points in four games.
It was his Game Three performance that informed the hockey world that he's no joke, and pretty much guaranteed himself a spot on the Flyers second line next year.
Leino scored the game-tying goal just seconds after Patrick Kane put Chicago up 3-2 with a 2-0 series lead in the third period, and led all forwards with 23:12 minutes of ice time, more than Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews.
Every championship team seems to have one guy who comes out of nowhere to step up his game, and it appears as if the Flyers have found their playoff hero in Ville Leino.
For more Philadelphia sports coverage, please go to my blog: The Broad Street Scoop.
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