Emery vs Leighton… Let The Better Man Win
Ray Emery’s return to action has brought mixed emotions among the Flyers Nation. Emery’s supporters, like myself, are overjoyed that he has recovered from abdominal surgery and made his return to the team. While others are still riding high on the emergence of Michael Leighton from convenient, affordable third goalie to back-up who makes a case as a starter. It’s very easy to look at wins and losses and draw your own conclusion over who should be the number one goaltender in Philadelphia. However, it’s looking beyond the numbers that gives you a better outlook on where your loyalty should lie.
For the sake of my arguement, I am only using Ray’s played games up to November 16th as “Pre-Injury” because it was estimated that his injury took place around that time.
Ray started the season as a house of fire, rifling off 3 quick wins including a season opening shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes. When things slowed down, he was 0-2-1 over the next 3, but finished strong going 7-2 over the next 9 before tearing an abdominal muscle. Due to the lack of confidence in Brian Boucher, Ray would continue to play through obvious pain and lack of mobility before finally getting the attention of new Flyers coach, Peter Laviolette. During the time he played injured, the Flyers would drop from a playoff contender to second last in the Eastern Conference.
Ray would have his surgery and return to the line-up for a problem start against the Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals. This was followed by a 3 game win streak with victories over the Blue Jackets, Rangers and Hurricanes. But, the streak was short lived when the Pittsburgh Penguins came to town. A heartbreaking loss coupled with tonight’s loss to the Thrashers have the Flyers on another 2 game skid.
So all that aside, here’s what we have…
When playing healthy this season, Ray is 13-7-1. Not bad in it’s own right. However, all 7 of his losses are against current playoff teams (5-7-0 in that category) and he’s 9-7-1 against teams with a winning record (not including OTLs). But then again, there are only 5 teams in the NHL who don’t have a winning record (Islanders, Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and the Oilers).
The collective groans of the Flyers Nation could be heard when the announcement of Leighton’s signing hit the news wire. Whether it was, “Who’s Michael Leighton,” to, “Didn’t we light him up for 6 goals earlier this season?”
Yes, in fact we did.
But with Emery on the sidelines, Backlund’s lackluster performance at the NHL level and a hand injury to Brian Boucher, the game was handed over to Leighton. Expectations were high and surprisingly, so was the team morale and motivation. After a no decision in his first appearance as a Flyer (giving up 2 goals in a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers), Leighton would go 10 starts without losing a game in regulation (8-0-1, 1 no decision). His streak was ended in his last start against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a 4-0 shutout in Toronto. 12 games, 11 starts and an 8-1-1 record with 2 no decisions.
But, here’s the kicker. Michael only had 1 game against a current playoff team (a 7-4 win at Pittsburgh).
While their save percentage is close, .908 for Ray over that span and .910 for Michael, Ray has a much lower goals against average (2.51 vs 3.19) and while he has more losses against better teams, he also has more wins against better teams.
By now you may be asking yourself, “But Paul, what does this all mean?” It may mean something, it may mean nothing. This may change your mind, it may not. But it’s always better to know the horse you’re backing while asking for the other to be taken behind the barn.