2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Michael Leighton was expecting a pass

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Leighton5.jpgI am admittedly hard on goaltenders, especially NHL goaltenders in
the playoffs.

Many people wondered what Dan Boyle was doing when
he threw his own puck on net; me, I was all over Evgeni Nabokov for not
being square to the play.

Before the Cup finals began everyone was
all gaga over Michael Leighton and how great he was against the Bruins
and the Canadiens. While he was certainly better than expected, he’d yet
to play a team like Chicago when the pressure was at its highest.

Against
the Hawks, through six games, Leighton was good. At times he was great,
but for a team like the Flyers to pull off the upset against Chicago
they needed him to be incredible. In their biggest game of the season,
he was far from incredible.

It’s tough to blame the go-ahead goal
in the third period on Leighton — it was tipped in front — but his
positioning on that play was indicative of the problems with his game
all series. The real killer was the goal before, after the Flyers had
taken a stunning 2-1 lead after being grossly outshot. Patrick Sharp has
a good shot, but this wasn’t his best. It was a clean release, and
Leighton had a clear sight of the shot; somehow the puck found it’s way
through him from the short side.

It’s something that had happened
to Leighton all series long. Good saves, followed by a soft short side
goal.

I’m still trying to figure out what happen on Patrick Kane’s
shot. As a goaltender, you are taught to always stay square to the
puck. If the puck is along the boards, you hug your post and make your
leg pads into a wall. The first instinct is to anticipate a shot, but
your first responsibility is to the initial shot. Trust your defensemen
to cover that pass if it gets through. Unfortunately,
Leighton broke that rule. Per Chris Botta:

“(Kane)
walked out of the corner and there was a guy driving to the
net,” said Leighton, who stopped 37 of 41 shots over 64 minutes and six
seconds. “I thought Kane was going to pass it. He threw it at my feet
and it went underneath me.”

From that angle, Kane’s
goal should never have gone in. While you feel happy for the Blackhawks,
I am saddened that a Stanley Cup was won on such a soft goal like that
one.