It's the best time of year!
Posted by ACHockeyGuys Labels: Bernie Parent, J.S. Giguere, Jaroslav Halak, Michael Leighton, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Playoffs, Peter Laviolete, Philadelphia Flyers, Robert Esche, Stanley Cup Playoffs
165:50 -- that is the shutout streak Philadelphia Flyers starting goaltender Michael Leighton is currently on.
Yes, the same Michael Leighton that has played a grand total of 103 NHL games since being drafted during the sixth round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Currently, as TSN.ca states, Leighton is hot with a record of 3-0-0, a goals against average of 1.11, and a .959 save percentage in his last four games played.
Leighton, facing one of the most historic franchises in this fine sport, is the first goalie to post back-to-back shutouts against Montreal in the playoffs since Buffalo's Bob Sauve did it in 1983.
He is also the first goaltender since J-S Giguere did it for Anaheim during the 2003 Western Conference Finals against Minnesota. 'Giggy' got on with it posting three straight shut outs that year.
Giguere went on to win the Conn Smythe trophy that year, even though the (Mighty) Ducks fell to New Jersey in seven.
Leighton is also the first Flyers goaltender to post back to back shutouts in the playoffs since, yes you guessed it, Bernie Parent did so in 1975.
You know what else happened in 1975? The Philadelphia Flyers went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
But who is this Michael Leighton you ask?
Leighton, who was born May 19, 1981 in Petorlia, Ontario, Canada. He is providing Philadelphia with a game that no netminder since the days of Robert Esche have been able to give.
Being part of seven different NHL organizations, he is known as a journeyman. Traded and waived throughout most of his career, his 16-5-2 regular season record which helped Philadelphia climb out of the basement in the East, came as a pleasant surprise.
He is a man that the Flyers and owner Ed Snider pay only $11,000.00 USD. The man who currently has helped the Flyers open up a 2-0 series lead on the Montreal Canadiens makes eleven-thousand dollars as a waiver claim.
The waiver wire claim was a blessing in disguise for Philadelphia. Right now, it is the best 11k that Snider has ever spent.
To think that this is Leighton's first time appearing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is mind boggling. The birthday boy, who turned 29 today, posted a glorious victory in his first playoff start against the Boston Bruins, a 30-save performance in a gut wrenching 2-1 victory for Philadelphia in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series (after stepping in for the injured Brian Boucher during Game 5).
Two nights later, after a rocky opening to the first period, Peter Laviolette called the "timeout" that would continue to help turn this Flyers season around. Telling Leighton during the timeout to simply "shut the door, we will get a goal and chip away at this lead, and with that we can win this game".
And just that the Flyers did, completing one of the most historic comebacks in all of professional sports history. Only three times prior has any one team in any major sport come back from being in an 0-3 hole. Welcome to history, Philadelphia.
And welcome to being part of history, Michael Leighton.
Since the timeout called by Laviolette, the Flyers have scored 13 unanswered goals. Posting back-to-back shutouts during the first two games of the conference finals is something that can not be taken for granted.
This Flyers club has built the mental capacity to know that they can represent the East for the Stanley Cup Finals.
As much as this series is far from over, considering it is now shifting back to Montreal, one has to wonder just how much focus has taken over Leighton's game.
In Game 1, he did not have a lot of work facing only 28 shots though most were routine saves or visible shots.
The Flyers defense has truly stepped up in front of Leighton, helping the first-time playoff performer in earning his victories.
Last night, on home-ice, Leighton was the star of the show. It was he who stood tall between the pipes, outplaying Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak; quite the turn of events!
#49 stopped all 30 rubber discs shot in his direction, with a few top-notch game-savers in the mix. With Game 3 slated for Wednesday night from Le Centre Bell, will Leighton place his name in history again?
So much for the waiver wire, eh?
Photo credit: Getty Images
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