By Mike Carver
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As we turn the calendar to November, a full month has now passed in the Islanders season and the biggest question they had 4 weeks ago is more puzzling now than ever. The merry go round at the goaltender position continues to spin and spin. And just when you think you have Jack Capuano figured out, he goes and dumps the puzzle pieces back on the floor and tells you to start over.
I sure thought I knew what he was doing. Al Montoya got the start in 4 of the first 5 games and looked great. I thought Capuano was making a statement that he was going to start the goalie who gave him the best chance to win each night, and Montoya was that guy. He went 2-2, had a great save percentage and goals against average and was hardly the reason the Isles lost in his 2 defeats. He has not seen the ice since.
Then it was Evgeni Nabokov’s turn. He got 3 consecutive starts including both ends of a home and home with the Penguins and played very well. It was easy to see why this guy was an all-star and Vezina finalist in San Jose. He is a big time goalie but, unfortunately, got his starts in a period where the Isles just simply were not scoring and hurt his record. The Islanders have lost 3 of the 4 times Nabokov has started and it was beginning to look like he was Capuano’s go to guy before he was removed for the shootout in Pittsburgh last week for “fatigue.”
Enter old friend Rick DiPietro. DP had not seen any ice time before entering the shootout in Pittsburgh mostly because of the mild concussion he suffered from a Brian Rolston slap shot in practice a few weeks back. Considering he was ice cold coming into the game, he did not embarrass himself stopping 2 of the 3 Penguin chances. It was finally his turn Saturday night against San Jose to get a start, and to me he looked like the Rick DiPietro of old. Some great saves, some wandering out of the net and the emotion on the ice we all know Rick has.
If you take what Capuano has done so far into consideration, maybe it’s time that DiPietro gets a run of starts here. He deserves it in my eyes, but I also don’t think Montoya should have been banished like he has the past 2 and a half weeks. One thing I am sure of is that the rotating of three goalies eventually needs to end. You need to have 1 goalie who is your workhorse and go to guy. It’s also a “feel” position. The starter needs to stay sharp and constantly get work. Letting a guy get a run for 5 games then nothing for 2 weeks will not keep him sharp or raise his confidence. So since Coach Cap can’t make up his mind so far, I’ll tell you how I’d play it.
I’d let DiPietro get his run of starts right now. The same 4 out of 5 that Montoya and Nabokov has been given. Even if he looks terrible a few games, give him his chance. But after that I take one guy and give him at least 15 out of 20 starts to work. Let the guy get into a rhythm and carry the team if the scoring is not there.
Unless DiPietro plays lights out in his 5 game run, I’d go back to Montoya and give him the 15 out of 20. He has the most upside and has played the best so far. He also has never gotten the chance to play for that kind of extended period of time and could excel in it. I know what Nabokov is, and am not concerned about showcasing him for a trade because in reality what can the Islanders really expect back in return. Let Montoya lead this team to the playoffs, or at least through the month of December.
3 Stars of the Week
3rd Star – Rick DiPietro – DP was put in an impossible spot Thursday night in Pittsburgh and held his own. He got some bad breaks in his first start of the year against the Sharks, but played very well and showed he’s ready to compete for the starting job.
2nd Star – John Tavares – I’m still waiting for another forward on the top 2 or 3 lines to step up and have a better week than Tavares. It still has not happened. Another goal for JT this week as he continues to drive the Islanders offense.
1st Star – Matt Martin – Last week I asked for guys to step up and Martin has answered the bell. He is a hitting machine right now on the 4th line as he continues to throw the body around and he chipped in with a goal in Pittsburgh. And maybe best of all, he’s played so well that it made Trevor Gillies expendable, a move I’ve been waiting a long time for.
Who should be the Isles’ go-to goalie? Sound off in the comments below…