Posted on: November 18, 2011 11:06 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 11:05 am
By: Adam Gretz
There doesn't appear to be a team in the NHL that goes through more goaltenders than the New York Islanders.
Once the team with too many this season, rotating Rick DiPietro, Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya in and out of the lineup, New York now finds itself in a situation where it doesn't have enough goalies for Saturday's game against Boston.
After it was announced on Friday that veteran Nabokov will be out indefinitely with a groin injury, the team later revealed that Montoya is day-to-day with a strained hamstring. And suddenly DiPietro, of all people, is the only healthy one on the roster.
Montoya has arguably been their best goaltender this season but has been limited in his playing time over the past month, appearing in just two games since Oct. 20. For the season he's recorded a .926 save percentage after posting a .921 mark in his 18 starts for the team last season.
Nabokov has appeared in eight games and has twice had to leave his starts early due to injury, including a game in Pittsburgh earlier this month that saw him exit after the overtime period and before the shootout. He played just seven minutes on Thursday night in what turned out to be a 4-3 Islanders win.
With Nabokov and Montoya currently sidelined, it's possible, if not likely, that Kevin Poulin will be called up from their AHL team in Bridgeport. Poulin appeared in 10 games last season.
Being forced to use multiple goalies isn't a new experience for the Islanders, as they went through six during the 2010-11 campaign: DiPietro, Montoya, Poulin, Nathan Lawson, Dwayne Roloson and Mikko Koskinen. Since the start of the 2008-09 season 11 different goalies have made an appearance for the team.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 10:46 pm
By: Adam Gretz
PITTSBURGH -- Rick DiPietro probably wasn't planning on making his 2011-12 debut the way he did on Thursday night during the Islanders' 3-2 shootout loss to the Penguins.
Starting the game on the bench as the backup to Evgeni Nabokov, DiPietro was called into action following the overtime period and had to enter the game, nearly three hours after he was last on the ice for pre-game warmups, to face the Penguins shooters in the tie-breaking skills competition.
Anytime a goaltender has to enter the game off the bench it's not really an ideal situation. Being thrown directly into the shootout for your first appearance of the season, and first appearance in an NHL game since last April, has to make it even more difficult. DiPietro stopped two of the three shots he faced, with Evgeni Malkin finding an open spot along the ice under his pad for the only goal of the shootout.
The move wasn't done for any strategic reason, as Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said Nabokov was dealing with some "fatigue."
Later, Nabokov said he was dealing with a "lower body injury" that he started to feel sometime during the first period and that as the game went on "fatigue" started to become an issue and he didn't have as much power.
"Nabby was fatigued and wasn't feeling well so I had to put Rick in," said Capuano. "I love our goalies, all three of them have played well and given us a chance so I have no issues. If one guy couldn't go, I have all the faith in Rick, and Rick was great. Actually he almost had Malkin's shot. But, you know, if you don't score in the shootout you're not going to win."
He wouldn't go into much detail as to what happened to Nabokov, who stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced through regulation and overtime. Throughout his career with San Jose Nabokov had some struggles in the shootout, and when asked if he was uncomfortable with the shootout and whether or not that went into his decision to make the switch Capuano insisted it had nothing to do with that.
"No, no, no," said Capuano. "I'm not going to get into it, he just couldn't go. So Ricky went in. Nabby's not one of those guys that feels uncomfortable. None of our goalies feel uncomfortable in situations like that. They're all great competitors and since the start of the season they've given us a chance to win."
DiPietro didn't have much to say following the game, only saying that it was unfortunate the team couldn't get the win.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 11:30 am
I wonder how Taylor Hall feels this morning? Saturday was a banner night for two of the past three No. 1 overall draft picks. But at least Hall had a good view for half of it.
First, it was John Tavares. the No. 1 selection in the 2009 draft is scorching hot at the moment for the Islanders. Tavares had a hat trick as the Isles took down the Rangers in a New York showdown. For J.T., it marked his second consecutive four-point game that included five goals.
At this rate, maybe Tavares should do the negotiating for a new arena on Long Island. Right now, he can't miss.
Now step over here for the latest showing in Premature Theater: are the Islanders the best of the New York-area teams? Since losing on opening night to the Florida Panthers 2-0 with some boo birds in attendance, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the young bunch.
They have won three in a row, beating the Wild, Lightning and Rangers. They're goaltending has been surprisingly solid with Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov. We saw surprising simply because this team was carrying three goalies on the active roster as of a few days ago and not many foresaw Montoya being the No. 1. The offense is showing the promise many people see; largely Tavares can be a superstar and he has some good players around him.
This is the point where we remind ourselves it's only the second weekend of the year. Of course Tavares won't score four points every night. But the Islanders have been taking steps the last two seasons and the signs were there for a breakout, just nobody could see how it happened in a division with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils. So far so good.
Not to be outdone
On to the other star of the night. That would be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. I'm starting to think maybe the scouting reports had him all wrong. I'm not talking about the knocks on his size, either, but the fact that he is a play-maker. I'd say he's making plays right now, goal-scoring plays.
The Nuge as some have already come to call him, netted his first hat trick of his career in the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the Canucks. So yea, in only his third career game, Nugent-Hopkins wrangled up a hat trick against Roberto Luongo and the defending Western Conference champions. This comes after his game-tying goal in the final minutes against the Penguins in his NHL debut helped Edmonton to a season-opening two points.
But Hall isn't feeling too bad. After all, he had a solid rookie campaign himself last season and he's enjoying the spoils of Nugent-Hopkins' great start by playing on the same line. He has assisted on three of Nugent-Hopkins' four goals this season.
That giddy giggling you hear is coming out of Edmonton, where visions of sugarplums dance in their heads at the idea of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins playing on the same line for years to come. Throw in a healthy Ales Hemsky and you have as exciting and talented a young line as you'll find in hockey.
It's still going to take some time, but this might be the season where the Oilers begin to show that improvement. Of course if they don't, I can't imagine Edmonton would feel too bad with a shot at top draft prospect Nail Yakupov.
Oh, and this Phil Kessel fella is pretty good too. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NHL with a 3-0-0 record (the Capitals and Red Wings the others) and Phil Kessel has been a monster in that start.
Maybe that trade isn't looking that awful anymore.
What's that feeling in Toronto? Optimism? Nice to meet you again.
If a tree falls in the woods ...
The Dallas Stars are 4-1, but not many people in the Metroplex have been around to see it. In their home win on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the announced attendance was 8,305. That followed up attendance numbers of 6,306 vs. the Coyotes and 7,949 against the Blues.
Now I understand full well that there is a certain other team that is stealing the spotlight in Dallas right now in the Texas Rangers. A World Series run is not easy to compete against. But those numbers are still awfully low, especially this early in the season with a team playing so well.
I'll give Dallas a pass for another week or so until the Rangers' run is done, but with young stars like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, I have no doubt the Stars can surprise a lot of people this year and keep that up.
It was like an awkward family reunion when the Coyotes hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. And it was only fitting that Shane Doan did damage against his "old team" with two assists on the night.
But the intriguing part was the dynamic in the stands. Among the crowd were plenty of Jets fans to see the long-lost brothers battle on the ice. However, Phoenix did a pretty darn good job of keeping them quiet.
"Everybody always talks about we have games when there's a lot of visiting fans in there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "But what it does is really feed on the emotion of the building because you get some visiting fans in there cheering that really puts a burr in your fans' butt. I thought our fans did a great job tonight. Believe me, I had visions of hearing 'Let's go Jets' a lot more than we heard tonight."
As for Winnipeg, you start to wonder what it will take to win a game. Maybe it's adjusting to life in Winnipeg now, a sense of entitlement as coach Claude Noel hinted at ("It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail."), or none of the above. Either way, there is lots of work to be done.
Hangover Part II
The last two Stanley Cup champions danced in Chicago on Saturday night, and it was the defending champs getting the best of the battle.
Maybe this can be the smelling salts that wakes Horton and the Bruins from their slow start to the season.
Dirty or not?
We could make this a daily feature with the microscope that is being put on his in the NHL these days.
Here's a clip of a hit from the Capitals' Matt Hendricks on the Senators' Colin Greening. This one drew a good amount of attention on Saturday as people were wondering if this would lead to Brendan Shanahan's first in-season suspesion for a hit to the heads that didn't include a stick.
To me it seems Hendricks comes at the hit high, but doesn't specifically target the head. However the high follow through with the elbow going sky high doesn't help make the hit look good. In the end, I would think this doesn't get any more attention and is instead categorized a good hit.
Have a look for yourself (from Washington Times, Japer's Rink)
Photos: Getty Images
Tags: Al Monotya, Ales Hemsky, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Noel, Colin Greening, Dallas Stars, Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers, Evgeni Nabokov, Jamie Benn, John Tavares, Loui Erikkson, Matt Hendricks, Mike Ribiero, Nathan Horton, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Saturday Story, Shanaban, Shane Doan, Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: October 15, 2011 11:56 am
By: Adam Gretz
Even though Al Montoya played extremely well through the first three games of the season for the New York Islanders, picking up where he left off in the second half of last season, it will be Evgeni Nabokov, and not Montoya, getting the start in net on Saturday night against the New York Rangers.
It will be Nabokov's first regular season appearance for the Islanders after being claimed on waivers last season, and his first appearance in a regular season NHL game since April 10, 2010, when he stopped 27 shots as a member of the San Jose Sharks in a shootout win against the Phoenix Coyotes. His last NHL appearance was a playoff game against Chicago in May, 2010.
If you're not familiar with Nabokov's journey to this point, a brief summary: after spending a decade with the Sharks, he signed a four-year contract in the KHL following the 2009-10 season to play with SKA St. Petersburg. The two sides mutually parted ways just months into the first year of the contract, and Nabokov attempted to return to the NHL by signing a one-year deal with the Red Wings. Because he had already played in Russia during the season he had to clear waivers, where the Islanders eventually claimed him. Nabokov didn't report to the team until this season.
And that brings us to today. Given that he's 36 and hasn't played in a real NHL game in a year-and-a-half it's obviously a mystery as to how much rust he'll have to shake off when pucks start flying at him. He did play for the Islanders during the preseason, but it's difficult to get any sort of read based on that, not only because it's such a small sampling of games, but also because the level of competition isn't what he'll be facing (or playing behind) on Saturday.
Nabokov has spent the Islanders' first three games sitting behind Montoya, who posted a 2-1 record and a .953 save percentage, allowing just four goals on the 85 shots he faced. Still, most NHL teams like to get their No. 2 goalie a start early in the season. After Saturday's game the Islanders don't play again until Thursday.
On Friday it was reported the Islanders other goalie, Rick DiPietro, would be sidelined indefinitely due to a concussion.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 14, 2011 12:37 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 2:50 pm
At what point do you begin to feel sorry for Rick DiPietro? I mean, if there were ever a goalie that fit the old saying "if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all" it's him.
The injury-riddled goaltender for the Islanders is out again. He did not dress in the Islanders' romping of the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-1 on Thursday night after taking a puck to the head in practice the day before. On Friday the team announced he's going to be out for longer as he suffered a concussion on the play. There is no timetable for his return.
As we have learned, there's no idea to know how long it will be until DiPietro might play again. Concussions are finnicky that way.
"You feel for him. The last couple of years it's been a lot for him," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said when asked about his fellow New York-area netminder. "When you are hurt that much it's also really tough on you mentally to all the time having to start over and rehab"
Yesterday we detailed some of the struggles that DiPietro has undergone. In the past three seasons, he has played in only 39 games. For the non-math whizzes out there, that's only 13 games per season. When you consider he has a contract for $4.5 million a year (that runs through 2021), that's nearly $350,000 per game played in that time.
Good thing the Islanders were carrying three goalies on their roster, huh? Al Montoya was a somewhat surprising opening-night starter, but he has been terrific in the Islanders' three games, giving up a total of four goals. There's a completely capable backup behind him in veteran Evgeni Nabokov.
I don't know about you, but I feel for the guy and am almost at the point of rooting for DiPietro. The expectations on him were placed mighty high when New York drafted him No. 1 overall, made room for him by sending out Roberto Luongo and then gave him a monstrous contract.
His injury woes are almost beyond jokes at this point. The way I see it, I'd like to see DiPietro remain healthy long enough to play extended time. If he falls flat on his face then, that's on him. But I'd just like to see him get the chance one way or the other.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 13, 2011 2:13 pm
So here's one you've never heard before: New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro is hurt and won't suit up for Thursday night's game against the Lightning. We can hear the gasp of shock from across the NHL, particularly Long Island. DiPietro, hurt? Who'd a thunk?
What has sidelined him this time was a puck he took to the facemask during practice.
"He took one high and hard there and it shook him up a little bit," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "He looked all right."
Now we don't want to downplay the severity of this too much because at this point, doctors have yet to rule out a concussion, according to Katie Strang of ESPN New York. It's just at the point that DiPietro being injured is what you expect to see.
Al Montoya had seemingly already taken the job as the No. 1 goalie for the Islanders, but DiPietro was backing him up. In his first two games on the season, Montoya has a 1.53 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. He will get the start again Thursday dagainst the Tampa bay Lightning.
To say DiPietro, the former No. 1 overall draft selection by the Isles, has been injury prone would be like saying water is wet. He has played a combined 39 games in the last three seasons, an average of 13 games per year. When he has actually played, he has hardly been stellar, too. Last season he played in 26 games and a save percentage of .886. For his career it's at .903.
For a player making $4.5 million per season until the year 2021, it's not exactly what you want -- both production wise and injury wise. Especially when you consider New York shipped out Roberto Luongo a decade ago to make room for DiPietro, and it's all just a little maddening for the Isles and their fans.
It's precisely why DiPietro headed one this list from the Hockey News: the 10 most untradeable contracts. Ouch.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 8, 2011 12:50 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 1:03 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Washington Capitals aren't the only team that have a rather surprising opening night starter in the crease. When the Islanders open their regular season schedule on Saturday night against new-look Florida Panthers, it will be Al Montoya filling the net instead of veterans Rick DiPietro or Evgeni Nabokov.
Coach Jack Capuano said, via Newsday's Arthur Staple, that it's a "gut feeling" to go with the 26-year-old Montoya.
He appeared in 21 games last season for the Islanders and played better than anybody could have expected, posting a .921 save percentage and recording one shutout during the stretch run. He was one of six goaltenders to appear in a game for the Islanders last season, and his performance was probably the most surprising given how disappointing his career had been prior to joining the team.
A first-round pick by the Rangers in 2004, he never played a game for the blue shirts before being traded to Phoenix as part of a five-player trade during the 2008 season. The Islanders acquired him back in February after trading Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay and losing a number of other goalies to injury throughout the season. And now he's getting the opening night start, getting the call over the oft-injured DiPietro, who has appeared in just 39 games over the past three seasons, and Nabokov, who the Islanders claimed on waivers last season following his brief stint in the KHL.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 27, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 11:49 pm
By: Adam Gretz
After spending the 2010-11 season playing in the KHL and sitting in limbo while refusing to report to the New York Islanders, Evgeni Nabokov made his preseason debut for the team on Tuesday night, stopping 15 of the 16 shots he faced in two periods of play during their 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames.
Last summer Nabokov signed a four-year, $24 million deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL after spending 10 productive seasons with the San Jose Sharks. His KHL experience proved to be a disappointing one, posting a .888 save percentage in 22 appearances (by comparison: the other two goalies on his team were both over .900 for the season) before he and the team mutually parted ways in December.
At that point Nabokov attempted to make a return to the NHL, signing a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. Because he had spent part of the season playing overseas he had to pass through waivers before he could play for Detroit, and the Islanders, in desperate need of a goaltender after a series of trades (Dwayne Roloson) and injuries, put a claim in for him. Nabokov ultimately refused to report and didn't play again in 2011.
He later said that his decision to not join the Islanders had nothing to do with his unwillingness to play for the team, and more to do with the fact that he hadn't skated in nearly two months and didn't feel he could help the team in what was -- at that time -- a playoff push.
Here's what he told Newsday prior to training camp:
“What made me make that decision is that I hadn’t skated for a month-and-a-half when they claimed me. They were out of the playoffs, but battling to get in and, as a goalie, I know the goalie position is important when fighting for position [in the standings],” Nabokov said. “I didn’t feel that I could help them to get to the playoffs. I needed three to four weeks to get ready and the season would’ve been over.”
Still under contract with the Islanders, he reported to camp this season and is competing for a roster spot to go along with the oft-injured Rick DiPietro.He finally made his first appearance on Tuesday, and for the most part things went well playing behind a roster that dressed few NHL regulars and a number of prospects and minor leaguers. He did allow a shorthanded goal to Curtis Glencross at the 4:10 mark of the second period, but stopped every other shot he faced on the night.
The most frustrating part of his performance, if you're an Islanders fan, is that he seemed to make things more difficult for himself and his teammates by turning the puck over on a number of occassions, especially in the first period, while attempting to play it.
It should be interesting to see what plans the Islanders have for Nabokov. Will he compete for the No. 1 job with DiPietro? Will they look to use him as a chip in the trading market? Or will they go with him as DiPietro's backup as a veteran insurance policy in case of an injury? Either way, Tuesday night was a promising start.
Photo: Getty Images