|Better Leighton than never for Flyers||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.
Now, after finishing in relief of the injured Brian Boucher in net for the Flyers Monday night, Leighton believes he can help lead the Flyers to Stanley Cup playoff history.
The Flyers blanked the Bruins, 4-0, at TD Garden and stand just two wins away from becoming the third team in NHL history and just the fourth in the history of the NHL, NBA and MLB to turn the trick.
“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.”
|Turn up the volume: A ‘skate-off’ win for B’s||01.01.10 at 11:06 pm ET|
It was like a huge holiday feast: almost too much to digest.
From the pageantry of the pregame ceremony to the singing of Sweet Caroline with eight minutes remaining to the game-tying goal by Mark Recchi on the power play to the game winner by Marco Sturm on a great feed from Patrice Bergeron, the 2-1 overtime win over the Flyers at Fenway Park gave Bruins fans something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
And when Sturm scored, the Bruins felt the exact thrill the Red Sox do when they win a game on a dramatic walk-off homer.
Afterward, the key players spoke about their emotions and what it was like to play in the first-ever Fenway Park hockey game.
|Ice Guru: ‘Good Lord couldn’t have done better’||at 12:22 pm ET|
When you play an outdoor hockey game on New Year’s Day in Boston, sometimes you need some divine intervention.
The Bruins, Flyers and NHL got just that on Friday when the weather turned out perfect for the Winter Classic – and most importantly the ice at Fenway Park.
“Awesome,” NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig said of the ice. “The Good Lord couldn’t have done better for us right now.”
This isn’t the first time Craig has found religion for the sake of playing an outdoor hockey game.
“Buffalo for me, was very stressful,” he said of the 2008 classic between the Sabres and Penguins. “[I was] praying that we could have a good game. Chicago , with our new equipment, [I was] nervous but confident in our equipment and the crew and knowing we were going to have a good game, which we did. And today, it is a calm confidence that we are going to have an awesome, awesome day at the park.”
Many fans assume that the colder the better for the ice. Not necessarily. If it’s too cold, the ice gets too brittle. Last year at Wrigley Field the temperatures hovered in the low 20s. So the forecast for 38 degrees at face-off work well for Craig and the NHL.
“Today is different from Chicago, due to the weather and how warm it’s going to be,” Craig said. “My crew can monitor ice conditions as they’re happening on the field of play. I will be in tune with them and with the engineer on the truck because I have to make sure that the truck goes down slowly in temperature as the temperature rises outside.
“Right on target – within tenths of a degree of the target, which is 24 degrees. We’re right where we want to be.”
|Photos from Fenway on the eve of the Winter Classic||12.31.09 at 11:55 am ET|
Courtesy of WEEI.com’s Graig Woodburn, some photos of this morning’s preparations at Fenway Park for the NHL’s 2010 Winter Classic:
|Bruins show their true focus||at 1:39 am ET|
Claude Julien wasn’t so worried Wednesday about his team looking ahead to Friday’s once-in-a-lifetime game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park .
The Bruins head coach was more concerned with his team just finding consistency and focus – both of which have been lacking in a season after finishing atop the Eastern Conference.
But on Wednesday night at the Garden, Julien watched from behind the Bruins bench with a smile as his team executed a nearly flawless performance in a 4-0 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Afterward, Julien, Tuukka Rask and Marc Savard, with two assists in the win, were among those to talk about the win and finally able to look ahead to Friday.