2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Michael Leighton growing more confident

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Leighton4.jpgI can forgive him the two goals in the third period. One came on a
dastardly tip-in on a 5-on-3 and the other was a fluky, bouncing goal
that careened off two players and over his pad. Until that point in the
game, and even after the Chicago Blackhawks had pulled within 4-3 late in
the third, I felt that Michael Leighton was having his best game of the
series.

There were still some iffy moments, with pucks going off the crossbar
and a couple of scary moments off the rush, but he was confident in the
net and making several big saves each time the Blackhawks threatened to
seize the momentum in the game.

He was especially good in the second period, when the Flyers sat back
a little and were outplayed by stretched by Chicago, as he made a
number of big saves to keep his team ahead by two goals. Obviously, that
lead would fall apart in the latter stages of the game but a allowing
two goals in the second period would have been much more devastating.

“I actually felt my best today, too,” Leighton said after the win. “I
was comfortable. I wasn’t nervous. I just — I had confidence in our
team that we would play well. And in the first period I felt I
made a couple of saves that really got me into the game and kept our
team in. And we scored a goal early and kind of fed off that.”

Leighton has a had a bit of a tougher series against Chicago than
when he basically rolled through the Montreal Canadiens, something that
was completely expected. The Hawks are one of the deepest offensive
teams in the NHL, and they have the ability to roll line after line
against you with neverending pressure.

The Flyers have done a tremendous job of keeping the Hawks to the
perimeter, not allowing Chicago to get any interior positioning and to
keep the shots coming from the outside. Leighton says that’s a big
reason he has been so successful this series against a team like the
Hawks.

“We knew they were going to come out and put pucks on the net,”
Leighton said when asked about Chicago’s attack. “That was kind of our
thing. Lavi said don’t let pucks get to the net. Those little wrist
shots from the point, try to step in front of the guys and knock those
down. We did a great job. They did let something get through. Without
screens it was pretty easy some of them.”

The Blackhawks have struggled with getting traffic in front of
Leighton, as Dustin Byfuglien has been completely rendered
inconsequential by Chris Pronger and company. The Hawks have tried a
number of other combinations to try and make Leighton uncomfortable in
net, but so far he’s been able to see pretty much every shot that comes
his way.

Headed back to Chicago, the Blackhawks will once again be looking to
use their matchups to their advantage and to get back to what was so
successful in Games 1 and 2. Leighton contends that it wasn’t so much
what the Hawks were doing in Game 1 that was frustrating him, but
perhaps a bit of nerves about being in the finals. Still, he says he
hasn’t changed anything as the series has progressed.

“I’m playing the same way. I know they’re a good offensive team.
They’re going to get chances. Game 1, I felt okay.

“But I wasn’t making the big saves and keeping our team into it. So
right from that game, I just said I have to make a few of those saves,
and we would have won Game 1 if I would have made two or three really
good stops. Just trying not to let in a bad goal. You play solid and
make the odd great save. Tonight it worked out.”

While there were the two goals allowed in the third period, it’s
tough to say that Leighton allowed a “bad goal”. Those goals plagued him
in Chicago, and I’m sure that Ben Eager’s game-winning goal in Game 2
is haunting him. Still, each game he’s grown more and more comfortable
and has settled down in net for the Flyers.

Michael Leighton is two games away from being perhaps the most
improbable Stanley Cup winning goaltender in recent history. He may not
be the flashiest, but he’s done a hell of a job against one of the best
offensive teams the NHL has had in a long time. But for that to
continue, the Flyers will have to do something they haven’t done yet in
this series; win in Chicago.

“We’re going back to Chicago,” Leighton said. “We have to win a
game there eventually.”

“So this is going to be the most important
game for us. Tonight was obviously a big win for us. We have to go
into Chicago and give the same effort and hopefully get the same
results.”

Flyers sign Michal Neuvirth to two-year, $5 million extension

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 12: Goalie Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Florida Panthers at Wells Fargo Center on October 12, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The goaltending situation in Philadelphia has become a lot more clear today, as they’ve signed Michal Neuvirth to a contract extension.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, it’s a two-year deal worth a total of $5 million ($2.5 million cap hit).

Neuvirth was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

The 28-year-old has been between the pipes for nine of his team’s last 11 games, but he’s dropped four of his last five decisions. He has a 10-9-1 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average and a .887 save percentage in 24 games.

The duo of Neuvirth and Steve Mason hasn’t worked out too well in Philadelphia. Both players have struggled to find consistency in their game, which has been problematic for the Flyers.

Even though Neuvirth will be back, they can still shake things up by moving on from Mason, who is also scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st.

The Flyers also re-signed forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare earlier today.

Report: Flyers extend Bellemare — two years, $2.9 million

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare #78 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Washington Capitals during the third period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Washington Capitals won, 1-0. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Philadelphia has re-upped with checking forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on a two-year extension, per Sportsnet.

It’s believed to be a $2.9 million pact, one that carries a $1.45M average annual cap hit. That’s a nice raise for the 31-year-old, who’s in the last of a two-year pact at $712,500 per.

Bellemare joined the Flyers for the ’14-15 campaign, following a lengthy career in Europe that included stops in his native France, and a lengthy spell in Sweden. He’s emerged as a good energy guy in the bottom-six forward group, one that can kill penalties and chip in with a bit of offense.

Today’s news might come as a bit of a surprise for Flyers fans, however. Bellemare was a pending UFA and, given he’s on the wrong side of 30, there was speculation he’d be sold at the deadline in the hopes of recouping some assets.

Report: Jesper Fast out indefinitely after suffering shoulder injury

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30:  Jesper Fast #19 of the New York Rangers skates against the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 30, 2015 in New York City.  Capitals defeated the Rangers 2-1.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Some tough news if you’re a fan of the New York Rangers.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Jesper Fast will miss some time with what’s believed to be a separated shoulder.

Fast suffered the injury after being flattened by Alex Ovechkin in last night’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

The 25-year-old has been a key contributor for New York this season. He’s up to five goals and 15 assists in 59 games. He’s also second in shorthanded ice time and in hits among all Rangers forwards.

The Rangers went into last night’s game without Mika Zibanejad and they also lost Chris Kreider momentarily yesterday, but he was able to return.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is expected to provide an update on Fast’s status after today’s practice, but don’t expect the news to be good.

Canadiens acquire Dwight King for draft pick

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Dwight King #74 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal to take a 3-2 lead over the Colorado Avalanche during the second period at Staples Center on January 27, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadiens are keeping busy.

Just one day after acquiring Steve Ott from the Detroit Red Wings and Brendan Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers in separate deals, general manager Marc Bergevin completed another trade before the deadline when he acquired forward Dwight King from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional 2018 fourth-round draft pick.

It will become a third-round pick if he re-signs with the Canadiens this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

In 63 games this season King has eight goals and seven assists.

He also adds to the Canadiens’ apparent season-long attempt to become a grittier and tougher team, now joining a roster that now has seen Ott, Shea Weber, and Andrew Shaw join it over the past eight months.

For the Kings, it is a move that clears out a bit of salary cap space, perhaps opening the door for them to complete a deal with Colorado for Jarome Iginla, something that seems to be a work in progress on Wednesday.

More

Canadiens corner market on pests, add Steve Ott

Canadiens get Davidson for Desharnais