According to Laviolette, he has already made up his mind on who will be the starter but will not say whether it’s Michael Leighton or Brian Boucher.
Leighton has been absolutely remarkable since taking over for Boucher when he was injured in Game Five against the Bruins. The numbers he has posted are very impressive considering he was coming back from injury himself.
In fact, when Leighton entered the game in the second period against Boston, it was his first game back on the bench. He had not played since March 16 after suffering a high ankle sprain against Nashville.
As it stands today, Leighton is leading the playoffs in goals against average, 2.34; shutouts, with three; and is fifth in save percentage, .918. But his numbers against the Blackhawks are very disturbing.
Through five games, Leighton possess an abysmal .867 save percentage along with a 4.01 GAA. The numbers are also deceiving as he has been two different goalies at home and on the road.
While playing behind his home crowd, Leighton was steady and calm. He made key saves at key moments, and allowed only six goals on 61 shots.
However, in three games at the United Center, Leighton has been pulled twice and was shaky in the other. Chicago has scored 10 goals on 59 shots when on their home ice, including three on 13 shots in Game Five.
His numbers on the road could be skewed due to the Flyers lack of defense in both games he was pulled, which was Game One when he gave up five goals on 20 shots and in Game Five.
With that said, Leighton has allowed several very weak goals that should have been saved. For instance, Ben Eager’s game winner in Game Two. Leighton has to make that save if you want to win the Cup.
And then the other night, Leighton cannot allow Dave Bolland to bank the puck off his skates to make it a 2-0 game on a delayed penalty, but he did.
Then Kris Versteeg scored on a laser from high between the circles with no traffic in front, while it was a snipe job by Versteeg, there’s no excuse why Leighton didn’t make that save. He saw it all the way, and didn’t get it.
Leighton has rebounded nicely after poor games thus far in the playoffs, and while that may have earned him the right to finish the series, I believe that Boucher should get the nod in Game 6 for two reasons.
Let’s not forget who’s responsible for the Flyers making the playoffs, who led them past the No. 2 seed New Jersey Devils in the Quarterfinals. It’s not Leighton, it’s Boucher.
While it’s true that Leighton played a huge role for the Flyers during the regular season, when he went down to injury against the Predators, it could have been doom for the Orange ‘n’ Black.
Already losing Ray Emery and no cap space nor the will to part ways with Claude Giroux or James van Riemsdyk, Paul Holmgren put all his trust into a goalie who led the Flyers to the Conference Finals in his rookie year.
Boosh answered the call, especially in Philadelphia’s final four games. With needing to win almost every game at that point just to get in, Boucher won three of the Flyers final four with great goaltending.
Boucher posted a .928 save percentage, and 2.01 goals against average in the Flyers most important games of the regular season. It was his save on Olli Jokinen in a shootout that clinched a playoff berth.
He was even better against the Devils in the first round of the playoffs, helping the Flyers advance in five games. Boucher had a 1.60 GAA, and a .940 SV% against New Jersey.
Boucher has shown in the playoffs and down the stretch that he can play under pressure, that he can make the big save when the team needs him to.
While that’s not saying that Leighton cannot play under pressure, it’s saying that Boucher also has earned the right to have a say in the Stanley Cup.
The biggest reason why Boucher should start Game Six is that if the Flyers extend the series to seven games, I think it’s too risky to go with Leighton in Chicago.
From what I’ve gathered in the three games he’s played thus far in the Windy City, he’s getting rattled to easily, he’s letting the crowd get to him. If you want to win the Cup, and you’re the goalie, you can’t lose it after giving up one goal.
Leighton hasn’t looked comfortable in net at anytime in Chicago, which is quite surprising considering how well he played in Game Four in Montreal. I don’t think you can rely on him in a Game Seven situation in hostile territory.
I don’t have a problem with playing Leighton in Game Six since he has been a much better goalie at home this playoffs, but I don’t think you can bench him for a Game Seven in Chicago if he wins on Wednesday.
Laviolette has the opportunity to justify making a goaltending change after Leighton’s horrid performance in Game Five, and taking his play in Games One and Two, no one will can blame him for going with Boucher.
Now, if the Flyers start Leighton on Wednesday night and they beat the Blackhawks, it’s going to be a heck of a lot harder to go to Boucher for Game Seven, but it’s a move that might be necessary if the Flyers want the Cup.
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