Tuesday, March 8, 2011
W2W4: Maple Leafs vs. Islanders
By Mike Hume
The Islanders play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Coliseum tonight. Here are three keys to watch for when the puck drops.
Oops, He Did It Again
With Rick DiPietro still under contract until cars fly and several prospects eager to break through in the crease, Al Montoya was supposed to be a stopgap solution for a team that had cycled through six goalies this season. Instead, Montoya has been exceptional and might make the Isles' future decision making tough if he keeps playing like he has been: 1.93 GAA, .931 save percentage and a shutout. On one hand, the Islanders have to feel like they’re pretty deep at goalie and the money might be better spent elsewhere. On the other, could they really watch a potential Tim Thomas type -- a guy who took years to find his stellar form -- walk away? Fans will want to keep a close eye on his performances for the remainder of the season and see how management responds when it comes to be decision time.
With 55 points in 64 contests this season, John Tavares has surpassed his season total from 2009-10 in 18 fewer games. That’s nice progress. Particularly considering he doesn’t have the supporting cast that several other top rookies have had. He projects to score 12 more points this season, which would mark a nice upward trend. Heck, even Nicklas Backstrom only improved by 19 points from his first to second seasons, and that was with Alex Ovechkin on his wing. That said, Tavares has cooled from the torrid 16 points in 11 games from Feb. 1 – 21. He’s averaged a point per game against Toronto this season, so maybe he’s due Tuesday night.
Don’t Fear The Reimer
James Reimer has emerged as the Leafs’ top netminder, posting a .924 save percentage on the season. His last outing though? Less than stellar. He allowed five goals on 19 shots -- and 40 minutes -- to the Chicago Blackhawks. Should he get the nod, the Islanders will want to put some pressure on him early, but I also think they should be selective too. Just throwing pucks on net from bad angles or from distance is usually a low-percentage scoring threat and will just allow a shaken goalie to slowly rebuild his confidence. Obviously you want to shoot, but some discretion could help.