It's hard to bench a hot goalie, and damn near impossible not to go with one coming off a shutout. Michael Leighton may not be standing on his head so far in his Flyers career, but he's been pretty good, and you can't argue with results. Since the former waivee first saw ice time with Philadelphia, the team hasn't lost.
Photo via John Boruk on twitter.
When we found out the Flyers would be in the Winter Classic, I don't think any of us imagined Leighton being their starting goalie. Especially not those of us who were watching the game on Halloween, when Leighton, then with Carolina, was torched by his current teammates for 6 goals on 28 shots. I remember saying something along the lines of "Oh, I get it. Michael Leighton's costume is 'Out of Position Backup Goaltender.' I love the subtle ones." I kill me.
But Leighton seems to be making the best of his new surroundings. He still gets caught out of position a bit more than we'd like, but he's recovered more often than not, and along with all the non-goalies now getting healthy, the Flyers are giving all indications of a team that has pulled out of its tailspin.
Leighton may not be Patrick Roy, but he's the hot hand right now, and whether you're playing at the Wachovia Center or on the field at Fenway Park, every last hockey fan knows you don't mess with that.
Interesting fact about the Winter Classic and backup goalies though... Every NHL outdoor game has featured the visiting team starting a backup—and it's been Ty Conklin every time. As an Oiler, Conklin lost to the Canadiens in the 2003 Heritage Classic. He later started for the Penguins in a 2-1 win over the Sabres in 2008, and the Red Wings when they beat the Blackhawks at Wrigley in 2009. The game before the Pens-Sabres Classic, Conklin notched a shutout. In the game two days before the Red Wings-Blackhawks classics, he notched a shutout.
That's not a bad precedent, Mr. Leighton.