Takin' a T/O with BT: Ville Leino Flies High in Philadelphia, Cup or Not

xx yySenior Writer IJune 8, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 04:  Ville Leino #22 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the third period against Antti Niemi #31 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Wachovia Center on June 4, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

It's usually the Detroit Red Wings who benefit from this kind of luck, not the other way around.

So how could someone believe it when a former-Red Wing struck it big?

For the Philadelphia Flyers it doesn't really matter—it's not like they're asking questions right now.

Ville Leino was that highly touted spin-off that didn't seem like he was going to get off the ground. The overlooked and under-valued second fiddle to Fabian Brunnstrom in the European infusion of 2008, Leino was a bit of a mystery.

In his last season with Jokerit he had put up a 77-point season. Before that he had back-to-back 40-point campaigns. But we were left to wonder whether these numbers would be transferable, or if this would just be another guy who would dip his toes in, but turn around and head home in a few seasons.

While a lot of people were talking about where Brunnstrom would end up, there were a few wondering if Leino would be just as good, if not better than the Swede when he signed.

While Brunnstrom chose Dallas, Leino made the smart choice in going to Detroit. Brunnstrom was seen by many to be able to step into an NHL lineup right away; that's why the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs (to name a few) were so high on him.

While Leino may have been able to do that, Detroit has never been afraid to let a player come of age in the minor leagues.

And being amidst a run at another championship banner, it's not like there was any rush either, so Leino had the time that Brunnstrom didn't.

Leino would prove that he was no AHL player in his pro year, and he was looking like a good NHL'er too. A point-per-game player in the AHL playoffs for Grand Rapids, Leino had nine points in his first 13 NHL games.

After a seven-game trial in the NHL playoffs, narrowly missing out on his first Stanley Cup ring, Leino was thought to be a key offensive piece for the Red Wings, as they were going to be employing scoring by committee on either side of centre.

It didn't go so well.

Granted he did score a goal in his first game of the season (and added another two games later), but the Finland native never got into a rhythm. It was, at best, two games between each point for him. At worst it'd be nine games between points.

So Leino became expendable (after becoming a healthy scratch) for the man that was going to get Detroit back into the Western Conference playoff picture. As Johan Franzen prepared to return in early February, Leino was shipped off to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.

He scored a goal in his Flyers debut, but other than that, there wasn't much to write home about other than Leino's only multi-point game of the season.

In other words, he'd have the highest seat in the house come playoff time.

But as always, injuries happened and Leino was brought out of the press box.

After playing one game in the New Jersey series, he scored two points in Game Two against Boston, but it didn't look like that would matter much down 3-0.

Then, for whatever reason, things changed. Call it luck, call it timing, call it whatever Danny Briere is doing, but Leino turned it on. He scored in Games Four and Five with his tally in Game Five being the winner. He had two assists in Game Seven, and five points in five games against the Habs.

For a guy that had one multi-point game this season, Leino has had seven in the playoffs, including three consecutive two-point games, and a career-high three-point game in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals.

He's shown attentiveness, agility, and the talent that seemed to dodge him in Detroit. While the Red Wings could've used this production last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers will need it if they hope to win the Cup.

Actually, at this rate they may get it and still not win the Cup.

There's something you didn't think you'd hear three months ago.

And now all the Red Wings have to show for it is a fanbase who hopes that Leino stays hot and sticks it to the Penguins next year .

Sidenote: Also, you can click the "Penguins Song" video on the side to get a firmer understanding of the hate. Be warned, it's not very good, and your parents won't like you listening to it. I didn't send you there.

You can follow BT on Twitter @BryanThiel_88 . If you've got any questions, comments, or ideas you can e-mail them to bryanthiel74@hotmail.com. Also, be sure to check out Bryan's other work overy at Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game!


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