Playoff lore is full of stories about players who have come out of nowhere to lead their teams to unexpected heights. But even among these tales, Michael Leighton
's story stands up.
The Philadelphia Flyers
are three wins from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1997 largely because Leighton came off the injury list last Monday, stepped in when Brian Boucher
was hurt that night and has been brilliant despite not playing for nearly two months due to a high ankle sprain.
All Leighton did was finish a shutout for Boucher in Game 5 against Boston, play 59 minutes of shutout hockey in a 2-1 win in Game 6, play a flawless final two periods to allow the Flyers to rally for a 4-3 win in Game 7 to cap a historic comeback, and start the Eastern Conference Finals with a 28-save shutout of Montreal on Sunday.
Not bad for someone who was a waiver-wire pickup during the regular season and had never played a Stanley Cup Playoff game before this year. A few more wins and Leighton will have his own chapter in Stanley Cup lore.
Three up --
Three other players who've been hot:
Antti Niemi --
Quick -- which goaltender is leading the playoffs in shutouts? That would be Niemi, who has a pair for the Chicago Blackhawks
. He didn't get one Sunday, but did stop 44 of 45 shots to help the Hawks beat San Jose, 2-1, in the opener of the Western finals. He also leads all goaltenders with nine wins.
Danny Briere --
This is the Briere the Flyers thought they were getting when they signed him to a long-term, big-money deal three years ago. He scored again in Philadelphia's 6-0 series-opening win Sunday, giving him team-highs of 8 goals and 17 points. He's in the conference finals for the fourth time in five years,
Michael Cammalleri --
Neither Cammalleri nor his Montreal teammates scored Sunday, but Cammalleri has been a force for the Canadiens in the playoffs with a League-high 12 goals -- including seven in the series victory against Pittsburgh.
Three down --
Three players who haven't:
Marc-Andre Fleury --
Getting routed in Game 7 against Montreal was a far cry from Fleury's performance for Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the Final last spring. He never found last year's form this spring.
Miroslav Satan --
Satan's scoring touch disappeared after his center, David Krejci
, was injured in Boston's Game 3 win against Philadelphia. He didn't have another point in the series -- though to be fair, his teammates also struggled.
Roberto Luongo --
The Blackhawks continue to have Luongo's number in the playoffs, routing him 5-1 last week to eliminate Vancouver. Luongo allowed just five goals in going 2-1 at Chicago in the series, but surrendered 16 in three losses at GM Place.
Injuries, news and notes:
Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov
(knee) still isn't ready to play, according to the Canadiens, who haven't had him since early in Game 1 against Pittsburgh. They also are without defenseman Paul Mara
, who missed the second half of the season with shoulder surgery. … Philadelphia isn't expecting forwards Jeff Carter
(broken foot) and Ian Laperriere
(brain contusion) for this series.
Non-playoff teams --
Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos
, the co-winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy, sustained what the Lightning called a mild concussion at the World Championships. Another forward, Stephane Veilleux
, had a shoulder operation, and defenseman Mattias Ohlund
had minor surgery on his right leg.
The week ahead --
There are a couple of dark days (Monday and Wednesday) sandwiching Tuesday's doubleheader before the conference finals settle into their usual alternating schedule.
Games to watch:
Chicago at San Jose (May 18, 10 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS) --
This now is a must-win for the Sharks, who lost 2-1 at home Sunday and want to avoid heading to Chicago down 2-0.
Montreal at Philadelphia (May 18, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) --
How will the Canadiens react after by far their worst showing in the playoffs, while playing again in front of a hostile, packed house on the road?
Philadelphia at Montreal (May 20, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) --
Win or lose two days earlier, the Canadiens can expect a raucous welcome when they take the Bell Centre ice for the first time since eliminating Pittsburgh last week.
San Jose at Chicago (May 21, 8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS) --
The Sharks and Hawks get an extra day off before heading to Chicago for Game 3 in front of a packed house that already has visions of ending a 49-year Cup drought after Sunday's win in San Jose.