By Mike Carver
The preseason has come to a close and the puck is ready to be dropped for real. But for the Islanders, the biggest question surrounding them since training camp opened will continue to follow them into the home opener on Saturday night.
Who is the go to guy in the crease for a team so desperate for goaltending stability after starting six, that’s right, SIX different goalies last season? The roster for opening night has been released and the Isles will get it going by carrying three goalies: Rick DiPietro, Al Montoya, and Evgeni Nabokov. No one knows where each guy ranks in Jack Capuano’s pecking order, but here’s how they stack up:
Rick DiPietro– For the first time in a long time, DP looks very healthy coming into a season. Last time he was healthy, he was an all-star and team USA Olympian. He seems to have finally regained his athletic side to side mobility and wants nothing more than to be this team’s leader on the ice and lead it to success.
2007-08 was his last full season and even when finally healthy last year he decided to pick a fight with Penguins goalie Brent Johnson and was lost for weeks with face fractures. There is still 10 years left on his monster 15 year deal and as much as you don’t want it to factor in, it does.
I think DP gets the first crack at leading this young, promising team, but he needs to stay on the ice and show his old form.
Al Montoya – The Islanders acquired Montoya last February from Phoenix as their goalies continued to drop like flies and took advantage of his opportunity. A former 1st round pick by the Rangers, he had never gotten a chance to consistently start games night after night in the NHL before the trade and was very promising in his first crack.
He went 9-5-5 with a 2.39 GAA down the stretch with the Isles and became a fan favorite at the Coliseum.
The Isles rewarded him with a 1-year deal for this season to see if he can build on his strong performance and as insurance against DiPietro injuries. If the fans had a say, he would be the starting goalie, but Montoya will have to wait for DP to falter.
Evgeni Nabokov – The former Vezina trophy finalist was claimed on waivers by the Islanders last January and refused to report to the team, which led to a season-long suspension.
Not a good start to Nabokov’s Islander career. Most thought there was no way Nabby would still be around by training camp, but after no trade at the draft, he decided he would report to Isles camp.
Now here we are, about to drop the puck, and he’s STILL here. The main reason being he is a world class goalie that has shown he can carry teams in the regular season and a HUGE asset if DiPietro goes down again. Also, if he gets a few spot starts (which he should if Isles are going to carry him on roster) and DP stays healthy, then he’s great trade bait.
If the Islanders are going to make the splash that I believe they can in the Eastern conference this season, they need one guy to step up and carry the team. My heart hopes its DiPietro, but my head thinks when it’s all said and done its Montoya. Watch out for Nabokov though, if he does get serious time in October, he may leave them both behind.
How do you think the Islanders’ goaltending situation will shake out? Leave a comment below.