Kukla's Korner Hockey
by William Morrison on 08/21/11 at 02:56 PM ET
The three candidates to start this season:
Rick DiPietro-Last season was an injury shortened season for DiPietro and when he did play he put up very bloated stats with an .886 save percentage and a 3.44 goals against. DiPietro is by no means the anointed starter for the Islanders-putting aside his huge long-term contract. DiPietro better look out because if he is outperformed in camp by both Montoya and Nabokov, I think there is a strong possibility that he won’t even be on the team to start the season. The Islanders need to do what’s best for the team here and if they have two better goalies who are performing, they don’t need to keep DiPietro in the NHL just because of his 15 year, $67.5 million contract.
Al Montoya-Montoya performed well last season in relief of DiPietro going 9-5-5 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against. Montoya is still only 26 years old and if he performs well in training camp and outperforms either DiPietro or Nabokov, then he should be rewarded with a spot on the Isles to begin the 2011-2012 season.
Evgeni Nabokov-Nabokov is obviously the biggest question mark of the three possible starters for the Islanders. He has said publicly this offseason that he will attend training camp. Nabokov has a lot of talent, but has had dedication problems in the past including failing to report last year. Nabokov has been a Vezina finalist and could steal the job from DiPietro if he has a strong training camp and shows that his head is in the right place. With all that being said, Nabokov is 36 years old and may not have many more NHL seasons left in him.
The goaltending situation for the Islanders could either be a huge strength for this team or a huge problem. With a young defense corps, the Isles are going to need solid goaltending play if they hope to make the playoffs. Hopefully DiPietro, Montoya, and Nabokov can stay injury free and the competition will play itself out based on performance. I really think that Nabokov, if he is motivated and wants to play on Long Island, can step in and play like he played during his best seasons in San Jose and can potentially be a quality #1 goalie in the NHL.
TII Prediction: I would like to see Nabokov and Montoya start the 2011-2012 season as the two goalies on the Islanders NHL roster. It might not turn out that way, but time will tell and we will see how training camp pans out.
The Islanders also have two quality goalies in their system who will be ready for the NHL soon. One more year for Kevin Poulin in the minors and he could be up with the Islanders starting full-time next season. Poulin is only 21 years old and is probably too young to be playing full-time in the NHL at this point in his career. With the other three goalies the Islanders have, Poulin doesn’t need to be rushed and could be the goalie on Long Island for many years to come after being seasoned for at least one more season in the minors. Mikko Koskinen is another young goalie in the Islanders system who potentially has a bright future. Koskinen is a tall goalie at 6’6” and made three starts for the Islanders last season posting a shaky .873 save percentage and a 4.33 goals against. Koskinen is only 23 years old and still has time to develop.
While the Isles goaltending has been one of the major problems with this team in the recent past, it looks like the future is bright on Long Island and could become a real strength for this team in the very near future.
The Islanders Informer
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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