PHILADELPHIA -- There is an advertising panel on the front of the Flyers' practice rink in southern New Jersey that features a furtive-looking
Nothing. As of a week ago when we last visited, anyway.
Now, maybe things changed while SI.com was in Chicago for the start of the Stanley Cup Final on Memorial Day weekend. Can't really say. After a Game 1 that Blackhawks defenseman
Game 3, not to beat the obvious as badly as ex-Flyer
Despite being in the same kind of hole that Pittsburgh was able to clamber out of last spring to win the Cup in a seven-game final, the Flyers should feel good about themselves. They climbed all over Chicago in the third period of Game 2 the way fans at the Vet did Dodgers pitcher
The Blackhawks, the NHL's best puck possession team, suddenly lost interest in owning it, and were content to chip the rubber off the glass or make soft dumps out of the zone. They simply stopped making plays. On a three-on-two with about eight minutes left,
"The third period was our best period so far," Flyers defenseman
As for their two-game deficit, Philadelphia has seen a lot worse as recently as a few weeks ago. The Flyers lost the first three to Boston, as you surely recall, before roaring back with an historic comeback -- not that they would care to attempt to conjure the same kind of magic, as Flyers forward
"Both games, I thought a bounce here or there going our way, and the series could be tied 1-1," Flyers center
But for all the positives the Flyers can extract from their Lost Weekend in Chicago -- holding
The quick fix involves the Flyers' third defense pair. Philadelphia simply has not done a good enough job of hiding its weakest link:
After a killer turnover and performance that lasted all of one shift and 41 seconds in Game 1, Parent was tethered to the bench by coach
When asked about the personnel matchup, Laviolette, who generally runs a superb bench, answered, "First, we have to trust in all our defensemen out there. We look to keep them away from certain people when we can. But...our coverage was there. We had man on man."
The Flyers, at home, should have an easier time getting any match-up they desire. Of course the larger philosophical question is why NHL coaches even play their third pair much. (Krajicek had 15 shifts, one more than Bartulis, in Game 2.) Three decades ago, teams mostly played five defensemen, occasionally rotating in the spare. In 2010, TV timeouts provide pauses that should allow coaches to ride their better defensemen, who are far better conditioned than their progenitors. Philadelphia also is blessed in having a workhorse like the grand
The other concern is more intractable. Leighton simply has not provided Stanley Cup-caliber goaltending. No, we're not talking about Game 1. That was a freaky match, just one of those full-moon nights. The problem was Game 2. On Hossa's goal, Leighton juggled Sharp's shot and gave up an unfortunate rebound instead of hanging on to the puck and getting a faceoff. Was it a terrible play? Hardly. Given the Chicago traffic around his crease and the force of the shot, a rebound might have been expected. But a rebound was not inevitable. A Cup-winning goalie, in a scoreless game late in the second period, needs to make that play.
In speaking to several coaches about Leighton in the past week,
As they say in the parish hall: bingo. Twenty-eight seconds after Hossa's drought-ending goal, Eager, who had not scored in 13 playoff games, cashed his wrist shot. Leighton stopped 24 shots in Game 2. He had a creditable, bounce-back performance. He played just well enough to lose, especially when juxtaposed with Niemi.
Leighton is a fabulous story, though. He's the fifth goalie to play and the seventh to dress for the Flyers this season. The 29-year-old earned a mere $600,000 but because he was claimed on re-entry waivers from Carolina in December, the actual cost to the Flyers, based on the number of days he was with the team, was $177,419.35.
He is such a journeyman that he is on a first-name basis with Rand and McNally. He has belonged to seven different NHL organizations -- Carolina and Philadelphia twice -- although he never played for three of them. He has been sent to the minors 17 times. He has been traded four. Like
"Everyone always seems to point the finger at goaltending when the Flyers don't win with good teams," said Sharp, an ex-Flyer. "Like here, every time the Cubs bail out of the playoffs, it's the goat's fault."
Unless Leighton can be just a little better on Wednesday, he might be Philadelphia's goat.