2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Michael Leighton was expecting a pass
I 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.”