Is DP's Demotion A Reason For The Isles' Success?
The New York Islanders assigned goaltender Rick DiPietro to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on February 23rd, 2013. At that time, the Isles were 7-9-1 and appearing as a team that could miss the playoffs once again in another frustrating season (Photo credit: xjowell/Flickr).
Since DP's demotion, the Islanders have gone 17-7-5 due largely in part to a near flawless month of April (8-0-3). Leading the charge between the pipes has been Evgeni Nabokov, who boasts a 23-11-6 record that holds three shutouts - one coming in a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres the night DiPietro was sent to Bridgeport.
Nabby is also tied for second in the league with 23 wins, just one shy of tying San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi for the league lead. Behind him has been rookie Kevin Poulin, who has only seen three starts. He has a 1-2-0 record along with a 3.32 GAA and .880 save percentage.
Poulin's poor stats may be due to the lack of playing time he has received and the large gaps in between the games he has actually started. But a major upside for Poulin's development is that he is only 23 years old with plenty of time to grow as an NHL goaltender.
DiPietro, on the other hand, is not.
With the Sound Tigers, DiPietro went 9-9-0 in 18 games played along with a 2.93 GAA and .893 save percantage - a stat that should have likely been much higher when playing in the minor leagues.
Garth Snow has not revealed his future plans for the goalie he originally signed to a 15-year deal. Depending on who you talk to, the Islanders are going to keep him despite the demotion, or buy him out in the off-season via compliance or the old-fashioned way.
Either way, one thing is certain: this team is much better without him. Each game has become about winning and not about regaining DiPietro's abilities and skills.
It has also given the skaters more confidence as well. Playing in front of a goalie that can steal games is much more supportive than a goalie who hasn't played much over the past five years, overplays the puck, consistently gets injured and has gotten very rusty.
Is there a direct connection between the Islanders' success and DiPietro's removal? Although there are certainly several reasons for their rise in the standings, the numbers just might speak for themselves.
And they might speak loud enough for the brass of Islanders management to make a few major decisions that might come a little easier to them than they originally might have thought.
As for the playoffs, don't expect to see DiPietro getting called up to join the team. It should only continue to be Nabby from here on out.