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2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1: Should Leighton have stayed in the game?

Image (1) Leighton1-thumb-250x193-12588.jpg for post 1849

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 goals.

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 moving forward.

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.

Now 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 Canadiens.

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.