What an interesting trip it's been for Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton; if anything, his story is proof that you should never give up.
Leighton spoke to Michael Landsberg on Monday's episode of "Off the Record" and discussed his strange journey to where he stands now - that is, three victories away from the Stanley Cup final.
Back in December, Leighton was placed on waivers by the Hurricanes. He took two weeks trying to figure out if where his career was headed; he was thinking about finishing in the minor leagues or going to Europe.
Then he got a phone call from the Flyers - Peter Laviolette had just taken over as the head coach in Philadelphia, and he had previously coached Leighton in Carolina, where they had developed solid chemistry.
"We seemed to work well together," Leighton told OTR. "His system seemed to fit in well with me and things went well."
Leighton was a put into the lineup as backup goaltender for Philly, second stringer to Brian Boucher. But when Boucher was injured in Game 5 of the team's Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bruins, Leighton suddenly became the go-to-guy.
When he took over that role, he was aware of the instant pressure that came with it.
"If I let in a goal, this could be the series, we could be done," he said of his thought process when he took over for Boucher. "I just tried to jump in there and not be too nervous and just ease in there a little bit."
The Flyers haven't looked back.
Now the Petrolia, Ontario native finds himself in the Eastern Conference championships, fresh off a shutout in Game 1, his team boasting a 1-0 series lead over the Canadiens.
"Confidence comes with playing more, and the fact that I didn't play for about four weeks, that was a little bit nerve-wracking," Leighton told Landsberg, but "(Game 1 against the Habs) was the best I've felt. I'm hoping that the more games I play, the better I feel."
Leighton, who previously held impressive marks such as the best GAA in Windsor Spitfires history, 98 saves in an AHL game and a shutout in his first NHL game ever (with the Blackhawks), had yet to establish himself as a successful NHL goaltender. He'd had stints with the Blackhawks, Predators, Flyers (the first time around) and Hurricanes before landing back with Philly.
Now, he finds himself as the main netminder for one of the final four teams looking to win Lord Stanley's silver cup.
"I've had my moments, now I'm here, I'm getting a really good chance at my dream," said Leighton, who turns 29 on May 19. "Things are going well, I just want to keep going."
- with files from Off the Record