IT'S FOOLISH TO compare a Hall of Fame goaltender with the likes of Michael Leighton.

Even if Leighton did something that Bernie Parent never could - log three shutouts in a single playoff series.

Even if Leighton, like Parent, experienced an epiphany late in his professional career.

Since he landed with the Flyers this season and made good, much has been made of Leighton's less risky style of goaltending. That style cost him his best chances, especially in Chicago.

As he pushed the Flyers into the middle of the playoff pack in March, Leighton consistently credited Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese. Parent's eyebrows rose when he heard that.

"He was asked to describe his style, and he said something like, 'I used to depend on my reflexes. Now, I depend on my understanding of the game,' " Parent recalled. "That impressed me."

Parent started watching more closely, and, sure enough, he saw in Leighton what he'd seen in himself.

"He studies the play," Parent said. "He's not flopping all over the place all the time."

It is a lesson Parent learned before the "Only the Lord Saves More" catchphrase became his slogan (see The Flyers traded Parent to Toronto during the 1970-71 season, where, that season and the next, Parent watched his boyhood idol, Jacques Plante, lead the league in goals-against average for the eighth season.

At the age of 42.

"I watched him play," Parent said. "I said, 'Wow. Will you teach me?' "

Plante did.

When the Flyers re-signed Parent for the 1973-74 season, they hired a different man. He led the league in GAA that season and the next, led the league in wins each season and led the league with 12 shutouts each season.

"Like me, I don't think Michael cares about the shutouts," Parent said. "I always said, 'I'd rather win, 15-14, than lose, 1-0.' "

Like Leighton, said Parent, the Broad Street Bullies forechecked and backchecked and defended with passion; his saves were often big, but his job was made easier.

"That sure helps you," Parent said.

Nothing helps more than camaraderie and focus. He hopes that Leighton can manage both.

"You have to put the blinders on," Parent said. "And you have to have some fun. Sometime, we don't have enough fun when we do this. Enjoy it!"

It is another lesson that took Parent a while to learn.

Parent turned 29 in the spring of 1974, when he led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup.

Leighton turned 29 about 2 weeks ago.