VOORHEES, N.J.- When the Flyers went down 0-3 to the Boston Bruins, it never felt like this club was just one loss away from packing for summer vacation. Now, with history still against them, the Flyers are within one win of pushing this series to an epic Game 7 finale.
However, there’s a new spin to this whole possibility. A new Flyers starting goalie, kind of.
After starting netminder Brian Boucher went down last night in the second period with a grade two MCL sprain in his left knee, a familiar face found himself back in a big spot for the Flyers. That man being Michael Leighton.
Leighton, who just returned to the Flyers’ bench after being out of the lineup since mid-March with a high ankle sprain, is once again the man with all the pressure on his shoulders.
“As soon as I got hurt, I told my wife that my goal is to get back in, whether it’s first round, second round, third round…” said Leighton after practice today. “I wanted to get back in and play, whether it’s backing up or getting the start. I’m where I want to be, and it’s obviously going to be a challenge and I kind of look forward to that. I became a goalie because I thought it was a challenging position, and it can’t be more challenging than this.”
“But I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself. You have pressure all year. I like playoff hockey. I like a good challenge and the team is playing great right now. The pressure is on the whole team, not one guy.”
Coach Peter Laviolette said today after practice that he went up to Leighton before he went onto the ice and simply told him to relax. Leighton took those words and did just that stopping all 13 shots thrown his way.
“I was just trying to relax [Monday night],” Leighton said. “We were up 4-0. It was a lot easier to relax than if it were a 1-0 nothing …We did a great job, played well defensively and scored goals. It took a few minutes to get comfortable and after that, I was good.
Laviolette also added that the playoffs is where players and/or goaltenders ‘define’ themselves. Big-time players come through in high-pressure situations. This is especially meaningful for Leighton, who is looking for a contract after this season.
“Michael has done a great job when given the opportunity before hand and now he gets that chance again,” Laviolette said. “There’s a lot of confidence in the room. There’s a lot of confidence with him in the net.
The challenge remains huge as the Flyers return to the Wachovia Center Wednesday to try an inch closer to a feat that has been accomplished only twice in NHL history. Coming back from being 0-3 takes character, determination, and leadership. The Flyers currently possess all three and will continue to take this momentum wave into South Philly tomorrow night at 8 p.m.
Flyers captain Mike Richards believes the pressure is still in Boston’s court. Where they had a chance to close-out the series but now find themselves in the middle of a historic meltdown.
“I think a lot of the pressure is on them to close it out,” Richards said. “That’s benefiting us right now. We’re just playing, and not worrying about everything else going on or what the situation is. We’re just playing hockey right now, and when we do that, I think we can be a dangerous team.”
Flyers game 4 and 5 hero Simon Gagne can see the momentum shifting on his teams side and has so since game three.
“Even when we were down 3-0, we had the feeling we could win some hockey games against that team. I thought in the first two games in Boston, in my opinion, could have went our way if we wanted it to,” said Gagne. ”Its playoffs, its best of seven and its going our way now.
The Flyers will faceoff against the Bruins in yet another sink or swim matchup from the Wachovia Center at 8 p.m. Will the Flyers finally toll the bell of the next team to be sent packing for the summer? Or will they once again defy all the odds to force this series back to Boston for game 7?
Giroux a go?
Giroux, who was boarded hard late in the second period of Game 5 by Boston’s Steven Begin, is expected to be into tomorrow’s lineup according to club GM Paul Holmgren.
“It’s more of a shoulder hit,” Holmgren said. “But obviously the way he finished into the glass, it looked more dangerous. It’s a dangerous hit and this time of year, there’s a lot at stake and you see it frequently.”
“Is it a late hit? By the standards we use, probably not because things happen pretty quickly out there.”
As for Boucher, the news was far worse, as expected. Boucher has a grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee and will most likely be sidelined for the rest of the season.