Flyers goalie Michael Leighton was on a roll between the pipes during the playoffs...before he met up the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, that is. The third-string goaltender couldn't survive Chicago's barrage in the series opener, and 'Hawks goalie Antti Niemi also had his share of trouble in the 6-5 Game 1 thriller. The series continues this week with Game 2 in the Windy City before the two squads head to Philly.
It was about time the Philadelphia Flyers’ goaltending situation caught up to them.
The Flyers had survived on a dose of Brian Boucher and a dash of Michael Leighton until Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday night at the United Center.
The Chicago Blackhawks chased Leighton midway through the second period after scoring five goals on 20 shots in Game 1 en route to a 6-5 victory as -185 favorites on the NHL odds board.
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Leighton has been the savior in the playoffs for Philadelphia, which was down and out in its second-round series with Boston before he took over from the injured Boucher.
Of course, both Leighton and Boucher are replacements for first stringer Ray Emery, who went down for the season in December with a hip injury. Boucher started the postseason between the pipes, but he gave way to Leighton after he hurt his knee against the Bruins.
Peter Laviolette has decided to stick with Leighton for Monday night’s Game 2 (8 PM ET, NBC), but don’t be surprised if Boucher finds himself in nets if the former at all struggles after his lackluster performance in the opener.
Oddsmakers opened the Blackhawks as -200 moneyline chalk for Game 2, while the Flyers were on the board at +170.
Both teams were available at those prices as of press time, but there were other numbers open to bettors. Chicago was set between -190 and -205, with Philadelphia listed between +165 and +175.
Game 1 played ‘over’ the 5½-goal total after the teams combined for the most goals in a Cup final game since 1992 – the last time the Hawks made it this far. Sportsbooks have a 6-goal total posted for Monday night’s contest.
Saturday night’s game was a seesaw affair that saw the Flyers lead 3-2 after an exciting first period. The teams were knotted at five heading into the third frame, before Tomas Kopecky netted the winner midway through the period.
Chicago dominated the third, holding Philly to six shots on goal while carrying the play. Given the way the Hawks finished the game, look for them to keep the momentum rolling on Monday night.
The bad news for Chicago is Antti Niemi wasn’t much better than Leighton in Game 1, allowing five goals on 32 shots. He’ll need to be better – and he should be – in Game 2.
The Hawks have to be pleased they were able to cash on Saturday night without getting anything from their top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien. All three players failed to register a point and were -3 on the night.
Chicago’s secondary scorers picked up the slack for its top guns. Kopecky added an assist to go along with the deciding goal, Troy Brouwer had a pair of markers and a helper for the Hawks, while Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland also had a goal and an assist.
With the payday, Chicago ran its winning streak to six games since falling in Game 5 of its second-round series with Vancouver. Overall, the Hawks are 13-4 against the moneyline in the playoffs.
The Flyers are 8-2 against the moneyline in their last 10 games since falling behind 0-3 in their series with the Bruins, and are 12-6 in the postseason following their defeat in Game 1.
As much as Chicago has to be bolstered after surviving a bad game from its top line, Philadelphia has to be concerned it couldn’t win a game in which it took no minor penalties. The Flyers went 1-for-4 on their powerplay chances on Saturday night.
Like Chicago, Philly needs more from its best player. Mike Richards was held off the scoresheet and was a -2 in Game 1. He should bounce back, but it might not be enough to offset a likely return to form from Toews, Kane, and company.
Hawks winger Andrew Ladd missed the opened with a shoulder injury, and isn’t expected to go in Game 2. He’s listed as questionable.
Game 3 of the Cup final is slated for Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center, with Game 4 scheduled for Friday. Should the series get back to Chicago, Game 5 is set for Sunday night.
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