2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Michael Leighton's long journey back to Chicago

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Michael Leighton’s journey to become a starting goaltender in the
Stanley Cup finals is nothing short of amazing. Since being drafted by
the Chicago Blackhawks, he’s spent time with the Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim
Ducks, Nashville Predators, Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina
Hurricanes. Many times he was claimed off waivers, as he was deemed
expendable by his team.

He was even claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007 before once
again being put on waivers. The same team that relies on him so much now
couldn’t find a place for him on the team just three years ago.

Michael Leighton may be a relatively new name to some, but at 29 he’s
just now coming into his own as a goaltender. There were good reasons
that he wasn’t able to ever stick with a team, as he never proved on the
ice he deserved to stay.

Yet when the Philadelphia Flyers were facing a goaltender crisis in
the middle of the season, they picked Leighton up and never looked back.
He hit the ice for the Flyers playing the best of his career, not
losing in regulation in his first 10 games and putting up a stellar
16-5-2 record. He led the Flyers away from the brink of destruction
midseason, gave them a chance to compete for the postseason, and then
once again and to sit back and watch after being hurt in March.

The Flyers tried to secure a goaltender at the trade deadline, but
Leighton’s play gave them faith that they needn’t sell the farm for a
goalie as they had a solid one already in net.

He finally had proven himself, had finally given his team a reason to
keep him and he was injured at the most important time of the season.

Yet Leighton would get one more chance, being called upon as soon as
he returned from injury to replace Brian Boucher, himself lost with a
knee injury. He responded by leading the Flyers out the Bruins series
and post three shutouts against the Canadiens.

So here he is, ready to take the ice in Chicago, playing against the
team that drafted him in a battle for the Stanley Cup.

“It’s unbelievable to come where I’ve come from, to be here right
now,” Leighton says of this chance.

Despite the time he’s spent bouncing around the NHL, Leighton is
still a wholly unproven goaltender. He has just 103 NHL games under his
belt and when you look at his career the number he’s put up in
Philadelphia are a bit unexpected. Yet there’s no doubting his ability
in net at this moment, as he gears up for the Stanley Cup finals.

That is, unless you’re Patrick Kane.

“Their defence is the reason he played so well,” he said. “Not taking
anything away from him, he obviously played really good and shut them
out. But there were games I was watching where Philly outshot them 13-2
in periods, 12-1 and different things like that. Hopefully we’re a
better test for him.”

Until the Sharks came around, you could say the exact same thing about
Antti Niemi. The Blackhawks also know a bit about being outshot in a
game, allowing the Sharks to unleash an incredible amount of rubber in
their direction. So while Leighton has been helped by his defense,
perhaps Kane should focus on his own.

Lightning will retire Vincent Lecavalier’s number on February 10

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The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Monday morning that they will be retiring Vincent Lecavalier’s No. 4 this season, making sure that no other player will ever wear it for the franchise.

His jersey will be lifted to the rafters on Feb. 10 when the Lightning host the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings were one of three teams Lecavalier played for in his career, along with the Philadelphia Flyers.

“It is a great honor to have my number retired and I’d like to thank the Lightning organization and Jeff Vinik for recognizing me with this achievement,” Lecavalier said in a team statement. “The Tampa Bay community and our fans have treated me and my family so amazingly that this honor is extra special to share it with everyone. My family and I are very excited for February 10 when we can share so many memories.”

Lecavalier was the No. 1 overall pick by the Lightning in 1998 and spent 14 of his 17 seasons in the NHL with the team.

He is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in games played and goals and the second-leading point producer. He will be the second player to have his number retired by the team, joining Martin St. Louis.

Lecavalier and St. Louis helped lead the Lightning to a Stanley Cup during the 2003-04 season. His best individual season was probably the 2006-07 season when he finished with a league-leading 52 goals.

The Rocket’s slowest assist: Maurice Richard gets point 72 years later

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MONTREAL (AP) Montreal Canadiens great Maurice “Rocket” Richard is getting an assist added to his career totals.

Six years of poring over scoresheets and summaries of games between 1917 and 1987 by an NHL statistics team has found and fixed more than 6,000 bits of information that were overlooked or miscounted in the league’s early eras.

Among the finds was an assist on Toe Blake’s goal at 10:15 of the second period of the Canadiens’ 6-5 loss to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 4, 1945, during a time when the Punch Line of Richard, Blake and Elmer Lach was dominant.

The scoresheet that night, scratched out in handwriting, correctly had Richard with the lone assist. But when it was transcribed into the league’s official ledger, it was mistakenly given to Emile Bouchard.

The restored assist gives Richard 422 in an 18-year career that ended in 1960, and his points total climbs to 966. For the 1945-46 season, one year after he made history as the first to score 50 goals in a season, he now has 27 goals and 22 assists. The new totals are already entered in Richard’s stats on NHL.com.

It’s a good thing it wasn’t a goal, because Richard’s then-record career total of 544 has become an iconic number. A big deal is often made when an NHL star scores his 544th, such as when Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin did it at Montreal on Jan. 10.

In the early 1960s, Richard owned a bar called the 544/9 Tavern, a reference to his goals total and retired jersey number.

Since 1999, the league awards the Richard Trophy to the season’s leading goal-scorer.

Finding little gems of information like the Richard assist was one product of a massive undertaking to update and modernize the league database, which is to be re-launched this week.

NHL head statistician Benny Ercolani said fact-checking alone, such as adding one more game played to Ron Stackhouse’s total, took 2 1/2 years.

“Six thousand little corrections isn’t that high when you consider how many games were entered,” he said. “It sounds like a big number, but it’s from 1917-18 to 1986-87.”

Sometimes power-play or short-handed goals weren’t registered as such. Rules changes added to the muddle. In the league’s earliest days, minor penalties lasted 3 minutes instead of 2. There were years when up to four assists were awarded on a goal.

“In the old days, they didn’t keep descriptions of penalties – now that’s in there,” Ercolani said.

He said the new website statistics will allow users to find full information from the league’s entire 100-year history, and access them in new ways.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There’s a lot of other stuff coming.

“Now that we’ve got the data, we can do a lot with it.”

Kraft Hockeyville: Blues beat Penguins in tune-up for season-opener

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Much like Sunday night, the St. Louis Blues will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for a game in Pennsylvania on Oct. 4. With that in mind, the more heated moments from tonight’s Kraft Hockeyville preseason match might be fresh on the minds of both teams when the games start to count.

In this case, the Blues carried the play from a variety of perspectives, including the final score of 4-1.

The Penguins got the first goal when Jake Guentzel finished a nice one-timer sequence set by Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary, yet St. Louis was able to leverage its possession advantages to goals that beat Matt Murray up high.

The first one came from a familiar face in Vladimir Tarasenko, who aims for a Maurice Richard Trophy in 2017-18.

The game-winner was from 19-year-old Jordan Kyrou:

Paul Stastny then iced the game with a 3-1 empty-netter with a little less than 30 seconds remaining. Dmitrij Jaskin then made it 4-1 with a nice, patient score with Murray sprawling on the ice.

Carter Hutton deserves credit for a sharp win, but the final score didn’t do Murray’s alert evening justice, as the Blues fired 45 shots on him. This was probably the save of the contest:

While the Blues and Penguins wanted to be alert in this one, the stuff they might remember came down to rougher moments. Things started to escalate when Crosby mixed it up with Alex Pietrangelo.

As a preseason contest, some of this will likely be forgotten by veteran Penguins and Blues, but the people of Cranberry, Pa. and Belle Vernon, Pa. won’t soon forget the Kraft Hockeyville experience.

WATCH LIVE: Kraft Hockeyville featuring Penguins vs. Blues

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to host the St. Louis Blues to celebrate the latest edition of Kraft Hockeyville USA, with the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Find out more about Kraft Hockeyville winner Belle Vernon, Pa. in the video above this post’s headline (and also in this post). The game itself is taking place at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pa.

NHL.com captures some of the spectacle, as about 2,000 fans showed up and players signed autographs during what sounded like a very fun event.

Speaking of very fun, all signs point to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being among those players suiting up for the game itself.