Only in Philadelphia. Only the Flyers. Who else, in the Stanley Cup Finals, facing elimination, would have a goalie controversy like this? Down in the series 3-2, we still have no idea who will be in net for the Flyers in Game 6. Leighton or Boucher? Boucher or Leighton? In the first 5 games, Leighton was already yanked twice, but Boosh hasn’t really done much in spot duty. Laviolette has made up his mind, and I have a pretty good guess about which way he is leaning.
I’ve been a fan of Boucher all throughout the regular season, and I was comfortable with him leading the team into the playoffs. On the other hand, even when Leighton was winning games and had the best numbers, I didn’t like him protecting the net. He’d leave juicy rebounds out, and let in soft goals. Still, the team played better for him. They got to his bad rebounds, they didn’t let him face a lot of tough opportunities. So those 1-2 bad goals he would give up, where the only goals he gave up.
Once the playoffs began, Boucher was solid until his injury. He gave NJ nothing, and was pretty good against Boston. Then, of course, he got hurt just as Leighton got healthy. Gone were the issues Leighton had, and he was nearly unbeatable in completing the Flyers comeback against Boston, and especially against Montreal. He pitched 3 shutouts in 5 games in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the Cup Finals, however, he’s been pretty bad. Boucher has been a healthy backup since Game 1, and has already come into a game twice.
The latest time, of course, was Game 5. Leighton gave up 3 goals in the first period, and that was it for him. He did nothing to make a case for himself. This was not a move to motivate a team playing bad in front of their goalie. This was a move to get a bad goalie out of the net. Boucher ended up yielding 3 goals of his own, failing to gain support for himself as well.
So Laviolette has not answered questions regarding who will start. He said he knows it, but will not release the info. If this is a mind game that he’s playing with Chicago, I don’t see the point. It’s not like either Boosh or Leighton have such crazy different styles that the ‘Hawks must prepare different game plans for. And if he’s playing mind games with his own team, that’s a bit weird too. The guys don’t need any distractions. They need to focus on Chicago, stay loose, and be prepared. They shouldn’t have to worry about their own lineup at a time like this. And I’m pretty sure Lavy knows this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire team does know who is starting.
And my guess is Leighton. The team will come to play no matter who is in net, and I’m really afraid that Boucher was rushed back from injury. If Boucher had played lights out when he came in, then I’d go with him. But he hasn’t shown anything to force Lavy to start him. So once again, the Flyers will look to Michael Leighton to help them on their path.
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