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Flyers' goalie Leighton takes a positive approach
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton, who played for the Blackhawks in the 2003-04 season, takes a 6-1 playoff record into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Flyers and the Blackhawks on Saturday night.

 

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Published: 5/29/2010 12:18 AM

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Like so many people, Michael Leighton prefers to remember the good old days as a more idyllic age.

How else to explain the Philadelphia goalie's pleasant spin on his 42-game tenure with the Blackhawks in 2003-04?

"I think the biggest thing for me was the National Anthem," Leighton said. "To hear the crowd and just get the feeling of the fan. It's a great feeling and a great place to play."

As soon as Leighton offered those soothing words, he gently was reminded the Hawks were one of three NHL teams that failed to earn 60 points in 2003-04 and fans responded by staying home in droves.

Leighton rolled with that humorous punch like The Most Optimistic Man in the World.

"Well, we had a couple games against Detroit that were sold out," Leighton said. "Half were probably Detroit fans, but at least it was a good crowd that was very loud."

Why does Leighton prefer to keep things positive?

It's probably the only way he has survived a profession where the powers-that-be keep reminding him he's not good enough.

The Flyers' suddenly stellar netminder has been waived four times in the last four years.

Since breaking in with the Blackhawks in January 2003, Leighton has played more games in the AHL (the Wolves' level of play) than the NHL.

He made his first NHL playoffs appearance way back on - May 10.

Basically he's the hockey equivalent of a 29-year-old utility infielder suddenly playing shortstop and batting leadoff in the World Series, so this Aaron Miles-turned-Derek Jeter has the perspective to understand why he's in the spotlight.

"I'm confident, but I'm not overconfident," Leighton said. "I know I'm not the reason why we won that last (Montreal) series. We're playing well as a team. Defensive hockey wins games, and we're a very good defensive team."

Leighton takes a league-best 6-1 playoffs record and 1.45 goals-against average into Game 1. To put his numbers into perspective, the Hawks' Antti Niemi owns a 12-4 record and 2.33 GAA.

"Nothing seems to bother him," said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. "It just kind of rolls off him, whether good, bad or indifferent."