Montoya Minutes: Al Needs To Play
Al Montoya was the surprise starter for the Islanders home opening loss to the Florida Panthers back on October 8th when both Rick DiPietro and Evgeni Nabokov were healthy and capable of starting the game. DiPietro, who had been battling injuries for what had seemed like forever, probably expected to dress for the season opener preparing to embark on another attempt to return to glory. But that wasn't the case.
Head coach Jack Capuano chose to go with El Cubano, a goaltender that the Islanders acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes after injuries seem to strike every single net-minder in the 2011 season. Montoya seemingly won the starting position between himself and Kevin Poulin with DiPietro sitting in the press-box after suffering a broken face in a fight with Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender, Brent Johnson.
Montoya provided Islanders fans hope and promise as a man that can stand between the pipes and do something that they hadn't see in a while - steal a hockey game. It hasn't been easy to fill the void in the crease while DiPietro has continued to rehabilitate himself to a number one goalie. With Dwayne Roloson traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders displayed inexperience after inexperience until Montoya earned his way up the ranks.
No one seemed to be displeased with Capuano's choice back on Oct. 8th; in fact, it seemed that the inhabitants of Isles nation were very happy with the unorthodox decision. After all, this is Rick DiPietro's team, right?
Wrong. This team is coached by Capuano and his crew of assistants; hard work and wins would earn you a spot on this team.
But then why hasn't Montoya started a game since Oct 20th?
He was thrown into the Isles last game, a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. Montoya gave up two goals on 24 shots after Nabokov had let up three within the first 15 minutes of the game. But even so, Montoya boasts a 2-2-0 record with a 2.12 GAA and .928 save percentage; the best stats amongst all three goaltenders, including DiPietro, who had started four games in a row while only managing to get one win.
Establishing a rotation between two goaltenders is difficult, but deciding amongst three is even harder. Montoya might just be a victim of circumstance (as Curly from the Three Stooges would say) with Capuano trying to get DiPietro up to speed after missing time with a concussion at the start of the year. But Capuano has always rewarded hard working players who show that they want the minutes and the opportunity to play.
For a team that has lost eight of it's past nine, the head coach might want to start going back to the goaltender who has given him the best chance to win.
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