The great thing about the National Hockey League is that any team can win on any night. The New York Islanders proved that to be true last night.
The Islanders won in a dramatic come-from-behind win against one of the more talented teams in the entire league in The Washington Capitals. What’s more important, they finally put an end to the ‘winless’ skid that was about to hit seven and totally get out of control. So, for that, Islander Country is thankful.
It hasn’t been easy lately, nobody will deny the obvious. Last night marked – exactly – two weeks since the good guys registered a win, and the fans were really starting to voice their displeasure on Islanders social media sites, and in person at the Coliseum. When the Islanders went down 0-2 last night vs. one of the best teams in the league, many fans started chanting for “Al Mon-toy-a” as Dipietro gazed to the sky after letting in a rather soft goal to Alex Ovechkin from the blueline. A bulldozing shot from one of the elite players in the league? Absolutely. But there was time to set up for the shot, and had he been square to Ovechkin on the one-timer, he should have been able to make the save. Thus is life in the quest to rehab Dipietro back into the goaltender he once was. The contract demands it so.
Rick Dipietro is now 1-1-2 on the season with a 2.67 GAA and .904 save percentage. Truthfully, the goals against average is trending upwards, but these are not terrible stats compared to what we witnessed just a year ago: A goaltender who oftentimes looked lost in the crease, slow to move side to side, and clueless on directing rebounds from high traffic areas. We have to de-condition ourselves as critical analyzers when it comes to Rick Dipietro, as it is too easy to harp on what he lacks (for better or for worse). What we can do, as critical analyzers, is relish in the fact that Dipietro started four consecutive games, has not let in more than three goals in any start this season, and has given the Islanders a chance to win in each one of his starts. I will not invest the time to break down the statistics. I’ll chalk last night up to nothing more – and nothing less – than a solid win at home when the boys needed it most.
After last night, Montoya, Nabokov and Dipietro have each played three or more games. Of the three, Montoya has the better statistics in the early going in all three major categories (GAA, SVP, W-L) but it doesn’t mean much. It looks as if the three goalie rotation will continue as no one goaltender has, how can we say this, dramatically risen above any other. Tomorrow night in Boston against the -surprisingly – struggling Boston Bruins, the Islanders will likely revert back to Al Montoya for the start. This would give Dipietro a chance to reflect on the past four games, practice on areas that need improvement, and ready himself for a future start. As the Islanders embark on a short lived three game road trip (where they have been abysmal – thus far ) , Jack Capuano will likely give both Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov starts. As we approach Thanksgiving, something should give. Depending on where the Islanders stand in a position to those teams around them, I would look to this juncture as the de-facto point where Garth Snow begins to look for a move with Montoya or Nabokov on the trade front.
As it pertains to last night, the final thoughts are: The Islanders deserved to win. They came back from 0-2 in what could have been the defining moment in a winless skid that went from six to close to twenty-one in a New York minute, but the Islanders – led by top 3 hitter in the league, Matt Martin - roared back. Martin would score a much deserved goal himself to put the Islanders up 3-2 late in the second, before PA Parenteau would cap off a brilliant evening with a monumental goal with 1:47 to go in the third period. There is something to be said about the offensive output from a team that looked as if they would be set adrift to their second consecutive shutout, and has scored less goals than any other team in the league: This one feels good. (A tip of the hat to Capuano, as well, for finally changing up the lines).
What lies ahead: The New York Islanders take on a – recently – resurgent Boston Bruins hockey team. The defending cup champs have looked miserable in the early going – mirroring many of the things we have seen in Islander country – but there was, and is, too much talent for it to continue. They laid a smackdown on the Leafs just a night ago, and will look to continue their offensive output (will it reach 7, again?) against the Islanders. This is a particularly big game for the Islanders in the big picture: Win again and your back to the NHL’s version of “average”, I mean .500 %, and you head to Colorado with some confidence – or lose, set yourself two games back of .500 %, and compound an already tense lockeroom. This is a team that needs to win again, badly, for some good vibes to reverberate through the country. Look for Al Montoya to get the nod.
In other news: According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Snow has been working the phone lines for a taker on the struggling Blake Comeau. Comeau, who makes 2.5 million for the year, has been in Capuano’s doghouse and continues to look snakebitten on the ice. Let’s just say this is not how the Islanders envisioned the streaky forward capping off a 46 point season in 2010-2011. If Comeau doesn’t start to improve, and we’re thinking fast and soon, the forward is a likely candidate to be traded.