The Leight to Miss 8-10 Weeks, Put the Load Right on Boosh

The Leight to Miss 8-10 Weeks, Put the Load Right on Boosh

When Michael Leighton had trouble getting off the ice during the loss to the Predators, and the words "high ankle sprain" came across the wireless, the doom and gloom began. We all know how tough that injury can be to come back from, and today the team confirmed that Leighton will be on the shelf for a long time—8 to 10 weeks... 

Absolutely deflating news for the Flyers, who can't afford to go any further off course if they want to make the playoffs this season.

 

With their original starting goalie already out for the season, the Flyers have been fortunate to have an unpredictably brilliant run from a goalie they claimed off waivers in Leighton. Now they'll need to go back to their original backup plan, Brian Boucher, who was signed in the off-season to swing the door behind Ray Emery.

From the moment he signed, Emery was a question mark for a variety of reasons unrelated to injury. In part due to salary cap constraints, a higher-priced backup wasn't an option, and as usual, the goaltending situation was an area of uncertainty for the Flyers. But money wasn't the only reason Paul Holmgren put his faith in Boosh. 

As we've discussed here before, Boucher started 20 games for the Sharks last season, many of which were while regular starter Evgeni Nabokov was out with an injury. He started eight games from February 26 to March 17, and seven games from November 8 to 22. Over the course of last season, Boosh posted 12 wins, a 2.18 GAA, a .917 save percentage, and two shutouts. Not bad...

Now, the Flyers aren't going to be mistaken the Sharks of last season. San Jose went on to win the President's Trophy with 117 points, whereas the Flyers have underwhelmed considerably in '09-'10. But the Sharks' success and "regular season championship" wouldn't have happened without solid play from Boucher, as well as the other key to great goaltending—excellent team defense. Play solidly in front of Boosh, and the team can stay at least on the course they've been on all season.

Of course we can't look for all the answers on Boucher in last season's performances alone, but the truth is, it's hard to glean much from what he's done for the Flyers recently. We really don't know how effective he'll be as the starter because he hasn't played much in 2010, with only four appearances since December 21, none of which were starts. What we have seen of him lately has been in mop-up duty, on nights when the team isn't playing well in front of whichever guy has the misfortune of wearing the pads. 

The course of this season isn't on Boucher's shoulders though—it's on that of the team in front of him. At no point has this roster been built to be carried by the guy in the mask. It's time for the skaters to be the ones standing on their heads for a while, adding to their above-average scoring while not giving up too many breaks the other way. They've shown that they're capable of being that team, just not consistently.  

Am I being overly optimistic? Depends on how you read that last sentence. 

As for Leighton, it's hard not to feel terrible for him. He has resurrected his career since the Flyers claimed him, and who knows where his season was headed. At times, it felt just as likely he could carry them deep in the playoffs as it did that he would revert to the form we originally expected from him. Who knows what's next for the goalie who lives in a hotel, but I think we'll see more of him in Orange & Black beyond this season.

Photo by John Russell, NHLI via Getty Images.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).