I can understand Peter Laviolette pulling Michael Leighton after he
allowed five goals on 20 shots. His team was playing horribly sloppy,
there was absolutely no crispness for the Flyers and the only reason the
game wasn’t a disaster was because the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t doing
much better on their end.
I understand, but I’m don’t think I
agree with it.
If the score was 5-1, and Leighton had just allowed
that fifth goal, then I would agree with it. At that point, there’s
just no other option and perhaps he should have been pulled after four
But in this game, when both teams are trading goals back
and forth and neither team proved capable of holding onto a lead, was
there really a need to pull Leighton? Did Brian Boucher coming into the
game send a message to the Flyers, did that suddenly force the team to
play better defensively? Not exactly, and now you wonder about Leighton
Brian Boucher made several nice saves, facing 12
total shots after taking Leighton’s play late in the second period. But
he still made a mistake, over-committing with the puck down low and
giving Tomas Kopecky the room he needed to score the game winning goal.
Would Leighton have done anything differently?
Still, I just can’t
agree with pulling Leighton in a game that truly played that close for
the entire game. There’s no guarantees that Leighton wouldn’t have
allowed 3 goals in the third period, but hey he might not have made the
mistake that Boucher did. With the game played so close, I just can’t
agree with not sticking with your goaltender during a tough game.
we have the debate over whether it’s going to be Leighton or Boucher
for Game 2. Now there will be debate over whether the Flyers don’t have
as much faith in Leighton, even after playing so well against the
All this being said, this game did show that the
Blackhawks will certainly provide a much tougher test that the Devils,
Bruins or Habs did. Forget about the goaltending, when that really
wasn’t the issue. Focus on the defense, which all sorts of problems with
the Hawks’ offense.
Chicago Blackhawks 6, Philadelphia Flyers 5
lead series 1-0
This was not a pretty game. It may have been
entertaining, but I’m having a hard time thinking of the last time I
witnessed a Stanley Cup finals game that was played this sloppy by both
The difference between the two teams was that Chicago had
the ability to bear down, turn up the heat and actually play some
defense while the Flyers could not.
11 total goals scored on 64
combined shots. Not exactly a great game for either starting goaltender,
although Antti Niemi made a number of big saves in the final minutes to
help the Blackhawks hold onto the lead.
What’s amazing about this
game, which should give the Blackhawks even more confidence moving
forward, was that Chicago scored 6 goals and yet neither Jonathan Toews
nor Patrick Kane registered a point. In fact, the star players for each
team had poor games with Kane, Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, Simon Gagne,
Claude Giroux and Mike Richards were all held pointless and were a
So, 11 total goals and the best players on each
team had a bad game. Should be an interesting series.
One of the biggest (literally) reasons for the Blackhawks’ success
against the Canucks and the Sharks was forward/defenseman/forward Dustin
Byfuglien. The large and seemingly unmovable Byfuglien has scored eight
goals in the postseason, including one in each of the past five games.
In the Hawks’ four-game sweep of the Sharks, he had the game-winning
goal in three of the four games.
Nearly all of his goals were
scoring from directly in front of the net, as the opposing team seemed
helpless in keeping Byfuglien away from the crease. It didn’t help that a
couple of times the Sharks and Canucks inexplicable forgot about him,
yet no matter what either team tried to do he was still able to make one
heck of an impact in crashing the net.
With Michael Leighton in
net, riding one heck of a performance against the Canadiens and likely
extremely confident, you can guarantee the Blackhawks will continue
their net-crashing ways.
Only this time, the Flyers have a weapon
the likes of which Byfuglien and the Blackhawks have yet to face: Chris
There are many matchups in the Cup finals that are
intriguing, but none will get as much focus or be as important to each
team’s success than the battle between Dustin Byfuglien and Chris
Pronger in front of the net. Byfuglien hasn’t battled a big defenseman
like Pronger, yet Pronger hasn’t had to try and clear out what is
essentially a skilled defenseman from directly in front of the net.
Pronger may be at a disadvantage. What would have worked 10-15 years
ago in the NHL won’t fly today. NBC’s Mike Milbury, speaking during a
conference call today, explains:
“I wish it were in 1975 so I
could really watch this matchup; because
the way the rules are now, if Byfuglien goes to the front of the net,
Pronger can’t touch him. He can have action when the puck’s around the
crease, but if Byfuglien wants to go to the front of the net, all he has
to do is stand there.
“I think it’s going to be interesting to
see if Pronger can do anything
against Byfuglien, because the way the rules are you can’t touch the
damn guy anymore.”
Milbury has long been outspoken about the
current rules prohibiting physical play, and in this case he’s dead on
about how Pronger will struggle to stay out of the penalty box when
Byfuglien starts to take up residence down low. You also know that the
Hawks will take advantage of this matchup, in the hopes that Pronger
does something stupid and suddenly the Flyers are without their best
Knowing Pronger, there’s a good chance this will
happen at some point.
The Blackhawks and Byfuglien have become
masterful and causing trouble in front of the goaltender and the net,
knowing exactly what to do and to say to get the opposing team off their
game. Scoring goals down low, with Byfuglien let loose outside the
crease, is sure to be the first way to anger the Flyers.
has shown in the past that he does know how to clear out the front of
the net without playing dumb, using his frame to box out the forwards
around the net and give his goaltender a clear view of the shooting
It’s going to be two of the bigger players on the ice
going at one another, with one of them at a disadvantage. It’s the wily
veteran, the defenseman brought in to give the Flyers this exact edge,
against the hot young forward who has suddenly become the hero for the