|05.11.10 at 12:39 am ET|
When last Michael Leighton was playing hockey in Boston, he was walking out of Fenway Park, not TD Garden. And he was walking a stunned loser of a classic hockey contest, not the hero who came out of nowhere Monday night to rescue the Flyers and continue their season.
“We know we can,” Leighton said. “In my eyes we’ve outplayed this team most of the games. The first game we came out slow because we had a long break. We’ve been there every game it’s not like they’re blowing us out. So we’re confident as long as we come out and we’re ready to play every game that we can win each game. We’re just taking it game by game right now. We just have to brush this under the rug now and head back home and focus on that game.”
Leighton was cleared to play before the game after missing nearly two months with a high right ankle sprain but seemed unlikely to play with Brian Boucher taking over the goaltending responsibilities and the Flyers playing hard in front of him.
But then Boucher fell backwards very awkwardly in the opening five minutes of the second period, injuring both knees according to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren.
“I just went up to him and I didn’t know the extent of the injury so I asked him how he was doing,” Leighton said. “He said great job to me, I said great job to him. He was playing great the first period and that added a little incentive.”
While Boucher was being gingerly helped to his skates and off the ice, Leighton made his first appearance for the Flyers since March 16, when he injured his knee in Nashville.
Maybe it’s only appropriate that, win or lose, the season comes down to Michael Leighton since he was the man who replaced Ray Emery and Brian Boucher at the beginning of the season. Then he was installed as the No. 1 even when Boucher returned.
“I actually couldn’t even believe it happened,” Leighton said of the Boucher injury. “Obviously Ray going down early and then [Brian Boucher] goes down then Ray comes back then I get hurt. It’s definitely been a roller coaster for the goalies this year but the team has done great playing in front of all of us. Ray’s a great goalie and we wish him back and Boucher obviously has done well for this team and he’s gotten us to the position we’re in.”
So why then does Leighton believe the Flyers can continue their roll?
“Because we’re a good team,” he said. “Look at our lineup. As long as we play well and we’re confident in the way we can play, we’re a good team and we’ve shown that. Throughout the season we’ve won the games we’ve needed to win, we’ve beaten some good teams. We’ve obviously lost to some teams that we should have beaten but we beat Detroit we beat Chicago, we beat the good teams. So confidence shouldn’t be a problem because we know we can play with those teams.”
|05.10.10 at 9:33 pm ET|
Summary ‘ The Flyers will be going home with their season still alive after taking care of the Bruins 4-0 on Monday in Game 5. Tuukka Rask gave up four goals on 31 shots en route to his second straight loss of the series after winning the first three contests. The series shifts back to Philadelphia on Wednesday as the Bruins have two more chances to try and put the Flyers away to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
Brian Boucher started in net for the Flyers, but only played in for 24:31 and left the game in the second period after getting his leg pinned back in a scrum in front of the net and having to be helped off the ice. Boucher stopped all nine Bruins shots he faced and left the game with a 1-0 lead. Michael Leighton replaced Boucher and made his first career NHL playoff appearance as well as his first appearance in a game since March 16. Leighton stopped the rest of the Bruins 14 shots to share the first combined shutout of the Bruins in a playoff game since Montreal did it in 1955.
The Flyers got on the board first as Ville Leino’s hard work in the series was rewarded when he slammed home a rebound that Rask left in the slot off a shot from the point by Chris Pronger at 6:41 in the first. It was the second goal of the postseason for Leino. The goal was originally charged to Scott Hartnell but changed to Leino after review in between the first and second periods.
The same Philadelphia line struck again in the second when a blocked shot in the slot in front of Rask led to a loose puck getting throw towards the crease. That’s where Danny Briere caught it at the corner and tried to flip it passed Rask and Hartnell was on the other side to ram home the oscillating puck to make it 2-0 at 11:16. It was Hartnell’s first goal of the playoffs after scoring 14 during the regular season.
After Steve Begin went for a boarding call on Claude Giroux at 17:00, Simon Gagne scored his second of the playoffs on the power play in the second. Gagne got the puck on a rebound from Mike Richards and Leino putting the puck on Rask and got the easy put back to make it 3-0 at 17:53.
Gagne struck again to really put the game out of reach at 6:48 in the third period when Dennis Wideman could not control a back pass at the blue line as the puck slid through him into neutral ice while he dropped his stick. Gagne chased the puck down, easily eluding Wideman’s attempt to box him out and took the breakaway straight on Rask for an easy score to make it 4-0.
Ville Leino — Has been the hardest-working member of the Flyers the past two games and it showed on the scoreboard on Monday with a goal and an assist.
Simon Gagne — The forward played in his second game of the series after toe surgery at the end of the Flyers quarterfinals series against the Devils and has three goals, including two in Game 5, since his return.
Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton — The Bruins did the goaltenders a bunch of favors on the night but they still combined to shutdown the Bruins offense for most of the night to take the game back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Wednesday. It was the first combined shutout for the Flyers in their playoff history.
Turning Point — Boucher had only seen nine shots before Leighton replaced him and it looked like a golden opportunity for the Bruins to climb back into it. But Hartnell scored about six minutes later and Gagne added the demoralizer on the power play late in the second period as the Flyers took control of the game.
Key Play — Gagne’s goal was the first power play goal Philadelphia scored since Game 1 and came after the Bruins had killed the first five power plays the Flyers had on the night. The three-goal lead would be too much for Boston to overcome on en route to its second straight loss in the series.
|05.10.10 at 8:55 pm ET|
This is what it felt like for the Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the same round last spring.
They were coming off a 4-1 rout of the Hurricanes in Game 1 and they had just blown away the Canadiens in four straight the round before.
Then Game 2 happened and the whole perspective of the series changed.
Fast forward to tonight and a 3-0 Flyers lead after two periods. The Bruins had just lost a heart-breaker in overtime in Philly but still had a commanding 3-1 series lead, needing just to win Game 5 on home ice to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
But the Flyers came to play and fight for their lives, even when Brian Boucher went down in the opening five minutes of the second with what appeared to be a nasty lower body injury. Boucher made a save and then immediately grabbed his midsection. He could barely make it to his skates before being helped off by Chris Pronger.
Enter Michael Leighton, the same Michael Leighton who started at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 and the same Michael Leighton who hadn’t even been active in a game since suffering a high ankle sprain on March 16 in Nashville.
He was tested on a Bruins power play and then the Flyers rewarded him when Scott Hartnell finally got credit for a goal. Then the Bruins started taking undisciplined penalties and Simon Gagne finally made them pay with a power play goal on Philadelphia’s fifth chance of the night.
The Flyers will begin the third period with another power play as Andrew Ference was whistled for a cross-checking penalty.
|05.10.10 at 7:52 pm ET|
The Flyers apparently brought their rabbit foots, horseshoes and other assorted good luck charms for Game 5 as they lead the Bruins, 1-0, after 20 minutes.
Villie Leino gave the Flyers the lead at 6:41 of the first period when Chris Pronger took a shot from the mid-slot that Tuukka Rask could not contain. The rebound came out to the left of Rask and Scott Hartnell was originally credited with the goal when it appeared he poked in the rebound for his first goal of the playoffs and first in 22 games. But a replay showed it was Leino and he was given his second of the playoffs.
The Flyers then had a golden opportunity to add to it when Vladimir Sobotka took a high sticking penalty on Hartnell. But the Bruins killed off 2 minutes, 37 seconds of it when the Flyers took a sloppy penalty on a line change for too many men on the ice.
Toward the end of the Bruins power play, Marc Savard had the puck on his stick and appeared to score, only to have the puck slip behind Boucher and through the crease.
Earlier in the first, Blake Wheeler was all alone in front of Boucher for a point-blank chance, only to have the puck roll off his stick before he could fire a shot. Then there was the shot from the right point that Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan both appeared to get a piece of. The spotlight came on in front of Boucher, signaling a goal celebration.
One minor problem. The puck bounced straight up in the air and Boucher gloved it.
The Flyers outshot the Bruins, 10-8, in the first period and will start the second period with 33 seconds of power play time after Satan was called for a tripping late in the period.
|05.10.10 at 5:56 pm ET|
It is easy to forget that Brian Boucher is actually the third choice for the Flyers between the crease. The first was Ray Emery, lost for the season with a hip injury and the second was Michael Leighton who went down with a high ankle-sprain in early March.
The recovery time for a high-ankle sprain is supposed to be about eight weeks and then perhaps another couple for a skater to get back into optimal game condition. The Bruins Milan Lucic had a high-ankle sprain and has said repeatedly that it was the worst injury that anybody could go through and that he wishes it on nobody. Leighton admitted on Monday before Game 5 against the Bruins that it was definitely the worst injury of his career.
“You can strengthen all the muscles around it but that muscle just takes time to heal,” Leighton said. “You are still going to feel a little bit of pain for a while and it takes a long time to go away. It is a tough injury and I have never had it before and people tell me its the worst and so far it has been the worst of my career.”
Leighton said that he has been pushing for the playoffs because he has never actually played in an NHL playoff game through parts of nine seasons as a backup with 103 games under his belt since 2001. He has 27 games for Philadelphia with a 16-5-2 record, .918 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average. Outstanding numbers if he were able to replicate them through an entire season but up to this point in his career (he turns 29 in nine days) he has not been given the opportunity for full time status.
Now that Boucher has led the Flyers passed the New Jersey Devils in the quarterfinals, it probably does not matter how healthy Leighton is for the rest of series even if Boucher falls off a cliff coach Peter Laviolette will probably not put him in the net.
“He has just recently caught some good practices and we haven’t practiced a lot as a team due to the schedule so he has gotten some opportunities in practice where he has looked good, but I think there is always something to that game situation that you are talking about,” Laviolette said. “As far as the lineup goes tonight, Brian Boucher has played excellent for us. He looked really sharp this morning and I would expect a great game from not only our goaltenders, but everybody that plays the ice in front of them. You don’t have crystal balls to see how a game will pan out but Bouch [Brian Boucher] has been outstanding for us and he has put us in the position where we are today.”
For Leighton’s part, he seems frustrated and ready to usurp Boucher at first possible opportunity.
“I feel good. It has been about seven weeks and have been doing a lot of work and probably ready to play. Tuesday will be eight weeks so I want to get back into the lineup,” Leighton said. “Getting into the butterfly too start was the worst. I was doing a lot of stuff off ice the but the butterfly was the hardest thing to do for the first five or six weeks. I was able to push off it while I was in the butterfly, so, everything feels good now.”
|05.10.10 at 3:17 pm ET|
It is funny how the 40th anniversary season of the Bruins 1970 Stanley Cup Championship has worked out. Every time the team has planned to bring back the luminaries from that team — Bobby Orr, Derek Sanderson, Johnny Bucyk — the Bruins were about to play their biggest game of the season.
The first time the Bruins brought back the alumni was for an on-ice celebration of the 1970 team on March 18 — the day awaited by Bruins fans as the day that the team could get back at Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins for Cooke’s hit on center Marc Savard that gave him a Grade 2 concussion and almost immediately elicited a change in NHL rules regarding hits to the head from behind. Orr and company were gracious to Cooke and the Bruins amidst a stretch where Boston was not playing its best hockey and Bruins fans were clamoring for blood. The game registered NESN’s highest regular season rating for a Bruins game in history.
On Monday the Bruins unveiled a statue at the west entrance to TD Garden of Orr’s “The Goal” — the game-winner that won the 1970 Stanley Cup Championship over St. Louis. It just so happens that the Bruins once again are playing their biggest game of the season — Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers with a chance to clinch the series and move to the conference finals.
“The Broad Street Bullies? I have a lot of memories of playing against them,” Orr said. “That was a tough team, a hard working team. They were well coached with Freddy Shero, Bernie Parent in goal. All-star goalie. They had skill, they had top defensemen. Even their tougher guys could play the game.”
In a ceremony to unveil the statue the associated Bruins alum were present along with other Boston personalities such as Tim Wakefield and David Ortiz as well as the team’s owner Jeremy Jacobs and Jacob Wentzell, President of TD Garden.
The statue looks almost implausible as it stands with Orr flying through the air with no support for the bronze, is 110 percent life size and was sculpted by Harry Weber.
“It is cantilevered, which just means that means that it is sticking out from that one toe,” Weber said of the construction. “The reason we were able to do that is that stainless steal goes all the way down from the base of the ground up through that spray of ice, all the way through his foot, all the way through him, all the way up to the stick. It is like a giant jungle gym all the way up through the statue otherwise bronze wouldn’t carry the weight.”
After the ceremony Jacobs was asked about Orr’s departure from the Bruins, which has caused the owner’s name to have been dragged through the mud since he purchased the team in 1975. Orr left the Bruins despite a lucrative contract offer from the team after agent Alan Eagleson allegedly told the star defenseman that the Chicago Blackhawks had a better deal. Jacobs was mum, as he has been for the last 35 years, on the specifics that led one of the greatest hockey players of all time away from Boston.
“I am not going there. That was back then. If I knew what I know now then it would have been a different story,” Jacobs said. “It was a snapshot in a time warp. I was young, he was young. It just didn’t unfold the way it should have. He came back here, maybe not as a player, but he came back here as a personality that is so important to this whole community. Let’s face it, it didn’t happen like it should have. He had issues, a young man following a dream and his advisors and it didn’t work out. But that was then.”
|05.10.10 at 12:30 pm ET|
For all the talk about Miroslav Satan, his hands and his legions or Mark Recchi and how he is the remarkable ageless one during these 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, it is Patrice Bergeron who actually leads the Bruins in points this postseason.
Bergeron has four goals and seven assists through the first 11 games of the playoffs and he has been a difference-maker on both sides of the blue line. One has to wonder, though, if a guy like Bergeron, known especially to be a great defensive forward who is strong on the faceoff, purposely started to ramp up his offensive production. It seems in the nature of a guy like Bergeron, quiet yet with a developed sense of responsibility, to take it upon himself to create more offense for a team that struggled to light the lamp throughout the year.
“If you play defensively sound and it starts for a good offense. You know, I have always done that and it has been going well,” Bergeron said. “I think right now, I don’t think I am doing anything different, it is just going in. Obviously we needed it in the playoffs and everyone wants to chip in anyway possible and you know, right now, I am just happy that it is going the way it and and I just want it to keep on going.”
Bergeron leads the team in playoff shots at 33 (two more than Michael Ryder, four more Satan and six more than the nearest defensemen, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk at 27). He is second in assists (Dennis Wideman leads with nine) and has been dominant on the faceoff dot against the likes of Flyers captain Mike Richards or Sabres center Derek Roy. He posted his first sub-50 percent faceoff game of the playoffs on Friday in Game 4 but his numbers in the circle have been closer to 60 and 70 percent for most games this postseason.
“I think in Game 4 we didn’t do as good on the faceoff that we would have liked to so, it is huge to get the puck back and work with the puck and play a puck possession game and we have done a great job of that,” Bergeron said. “So, obviously we want to start with the puck more often to start with the puck as much as we can.”
It is not like Bergeron has all of a sudden flipped a switch in terms of offensive efficiency. He led the Bruins in point at 52 this year, which is not a lot in consideration with the NHL points leaders but still not a paltry sum. But, as the Bruins offense has come awake during the playoffs, either by good fortune that was not present during the regular season or increased efforts by guys like Recchi and Satan in the offensive zone, Bergeron by been the swizzle in the Bruins coffee.
Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that it is the responsibility of his players to play a good two-way game, such as the standard is Bergeron. The center was chosen for the Canadian Olympic team because of his defensive prowess and responsibility. For the Bruins, that approach has also turned into points on the scoreboard.
“We expect everybody to play a good two-way game. We always encourage our guys to be proactive offensively and we want them to be responsible defensively that is what you want in a well rounded team,” Juliens said. “That is what we have encouraged all year, whether is has happened or not, the way we like it, that is a different story. But, to have those guys do that it just makes us a better hockey team and certainly we encourage our guys to be more proactive.”