Canadiens Not Done Yet
Up 2-0 in the series, I think most Flyers fans assumed they had their ticket punched to the Stanley Cup. Well the Canadiens had other things in mind. Last night Montreal came back with a vengeance, beating the Flyers 5-1, and cutting that once insurmountable lead in half.
The Flyers goalie Michael Leighton reverted back to his former self after not allowing a single goal in the first two games of this series. With a solid defense in front of him, Leighton stymied the Canadiens offense. An offense that while not the highest scoring, had gotten past both the Capitals and Penguins in the first two rounds. The other shoe dropped on Leighton and Flyers in a big way last night as the Canadiens offense came alive.
Leighton had never really been a starter, and in fact had played just 12 NHL games before this season. He was always considered a solid emergency goalie, in case one of your top 2-3 went down, but was never deemed a top prospect. Leighton ended up getting his chance mid-way this season when injuries opened up a spot on the Flyers. He responded by posting a 16-5-2 mark, helping Philadelphia secure a playoff spot. Leighton too went down with an injury in the last month of the season, so he started the playoffs on the bench. He ended up saving the Flyers in the Bruins series and then followed that up by the two straight shutouts against the Canadiens, but the magic ended last night.
While Leighton did get touched for 5 goals, I don’t think all the blame can be laid at his stakes. While the Canadiens had been out shooting the Flyers, they really stepped it up a notch at home and had plenty of offensive opportunities. Also, the defense failed to clear out in front of the net like they had in the previous games. That combined with a few other lapses on defense, left Leighton more or less on his own. While no one expected Leighton to be perfect throughout the series, the Flyers will have to work with their defense to help protect their journeyman goaltender.
The Habs goaltender also reverted back to his previous form as Jaroslav Halak was dominate last night, allowing one goal late in the third period. After back to back series of stonewalling the best scorers in the league, Jaroslav Halak not only looked human in the first two games of this series, but he looked down right awful. Allowing 7 goals in the two games, and even getting pulled in Game 1. Halak silenced the Flyers offense last night, and helped bring momentum back to the Canadiens side.
While it might be improbable, and seemed impossible after Game 2, I really think the Canadiens will take this series. Halak has shown how dominate he can be, and I think he will pick up his game for the rest of the series and I don’t see the Flyers offense capable of putting up 3-4 goals against him, like they did in the first two games. The Canadiens offense also found somethings that worked last night and I see them having the veteran presence to exploit those for the rest of the series. The fact of the matter is, as much as Michael Leighton is a great story of working his way up, he is not a Stanley Cup goalie. I think Montreal will figure him out and take this series.