Leighton Strikes

Certain numbers can be taken out of context.  Certain stats do not truly warrant a players abilities or full game.

However, there is one statistical number that is riding in the spotlight above all else.

165:50

That is the shutout streak Philadelphia Flyers starting goaltender Michael Leighton is currently on.

Who?

Yes, the same Michael Leighton that has played a grand total of 103 NHL games since being drafted during the sixth round (165) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Montreal Canadiens v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Two

Currently, as TSN.ca states, Leighton is hot, posting a record of 3-0-0, a goals against average of 1.11, and a .959 save percentage in his last four games played.

Leighton, facing one of the most historic franchises in this fine sport, is the first goalie to post back-to-back shutouts against Montreal in the playoffs since Buffalo’s Bob Sauve did it in 1983.

He is also the first goaltender since, now part of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, J-S Giguere did it during the Western Conference Finals against Minnesota. ‘Giggy’ got on with it posting three straight shut outs that year.

Giguere went on to win the Conn Smythe trophy that season and the Ducks hoisted Lord Stanley as well.

But who is this Michael Leighton you ask?

Leighton, who was born May 19, 1981 in Petorlia, Ontario, Canada. He is providing Philadelphia with a game that no netminder since the days of Robert Esche have been able to give.

Being part of seven different NHL organizations, he is known as a journeyman. Traded and waived throughout most of his career, his 16-5-2 regular season record which helped Philadelphia climb out of the basement in the East, came as a pleasant surprise.

He is a man that the Flyers and owner Ed Snider pay only $11,000.00 USD. The man who currently has helped the Philadelphia Flyers open up a two games to none series lead on the Montreal Canadiens makes eleven-thousand dollars as a waiver wire claim.

Yes, his actual salary is split between the Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes, but that is all Mr. Snider has to pull out of his pocket to pay the man.

Montreal Canadiens v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Two

The waiver wire claim was a blessing in disguise for Philadelphia. And right now, it is the best 11k that Snider has ever spent.

To think that this is Leightons first time appearing in the NHL Playoffs is mind boggling. The birthday boy, who turned twenty-nine today, posted a glorious victory in his first playoff start against the Boston Bruins, a thirty save performance in a gut wrenching 2-1 victory for Philadelphia in game six of their Eastern Conference semi-final’s series.

Two nights later, after a rocky opening to the first period, Peter Laviolette called the “timeout” that would continue to help turn this Flyers season around. Telling Leighton during the timeout to simply “shut the door, we will get a goal and chip away at this lead, and with that we can win this game”.

And just that the Flyers did, completing one of the most historic comebacks in all of professional sports history. Only three times prior has any one team in any major sport come back from being in an 0-3 hole. Welcome to history Philadelphia.

And welcome to being part of history Michael Leighton.

Since the timeout called by Laviolette, the Flyers have scored thirteen unanswered goals. Posting back to back shutouts during the first two games of the Conference Finals is something that can not be taken for granted.

This Flyers club has built the mental capacity to know that they can represent the East for the Stanley Cup Finals.

As much as this series is far from over, considering it is now shifting back to Montreal, one has to wonder just how much focus has taken over Leighton’s game.

In game one, he did not have a lot of work facing only 28 shots though most were routine saves or visible shots.

The Flyers defense has truly stepped up in front of Leighton helping the first time playoff performer in earning his victories. And the offense has found life that was lacked for most of the entire regular season.

Funny how things change.

Last night, on home ice, Leighton was the star of the show. It was he who stood tall between the pipes, outplaying Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak; quite the turn of events.

Number forty-nine stopped all 30 rubber discs shot in his direction, with a few top-notch game savers in the mix.

With game three slated for Wednesday night from Le Centre Bell, will Leighton place his name in history again?

So much for the waiver wire, eh?

Anthony Curatolo is the Los Angeles Kings contributor for Hockey Independent. He also writes for The Hockey Guys and NHL Hot Stove. Be sure to follow him on Twitter: @HockeyGuy_AC and you can e-mail Anthony ANYTIME.

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About the Author: Anthony Curatolo is a 31 y/o New Yorker with a passion for the game that takes him into a different category then the regular run of the mill fan. He has an intense, creative, witty style that will either have you love him or hate him within the first paragraph you read from one of his writings. Growing up in a hockey world (his father was raised in Montreal, and his father brought that passion with him into the States) was a blessing in disguise for Anthony. Hockey has become more then a passion and infatuation for, and he hopes to one day have a career within the sport. Picked up originally by the Checking Line (from guest blogs written for HockeyBuzz), Anthony began blogging on a daily basis. When his original site, the checking line, went down the writing passion started to fall off. A few years later, Crash the Crease was born and Anthony was approached and asked to write for them. Since that time (August '08), Anthony has become a panel member on the websites Sunday talk show, as well as branching off and forming 1/3 of the talk show team called "The Hockey Guys!" Now Anthony takes his mind and his writings to the next level as he begins his journey with Hockey Independent and asks that there are many that join him. The Kings are the team, the style is Independent and the game is Hockey - there is nothing better in the universe. Although his pride bleeds for the Orange and Black (yes folks, the Philadelphia Flyers) Anthony is also a FAN of the game, and has knowledge for all 30 teams within the league coming from his true, pure love for the sport in it's entirety. As a voice of a fan for the fans (as we all know is the "Crash the Crease" and "The Hockey Guys" slogans) there will be debate, controversy, praise and love all combined into one giant thing - blogs by Anthony.

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