New York Hockey: Al Montoya

Isles earn first win of season vs. Wild

October, 10, 2011
With goaltender Al Montoya making his second straight start, the Islanders earned their first win of the season, 2-1 over the Wild, at Nassau Coliseum Monday.

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald and second-line center Frans Nielsen both tallied first-period goals and the team's penalty kill went a perfect 7-for-7 to hold onto the lead for the win.

Montoya, one of the few players who fared well in the team's home opener Saturday, had another strong showing in net. Rick DiPietro backed up for the second straight game.

He stopped 20 of 21 shots from Minnesota to collect his first win of the season.

Montoya to make second straight start

October, 10, 2011
After awarding Al Montoya the opening-night start against the Panthers Saturday, coach Jack Capuano has elected to go back to him for today's matinee against the Wild.

Montoya was one of the few Islanders to play well in the team's 2-0 shutout loss -- stopping 27 of 29 shots-- and, according to Capuano, deserves another start.

"Al played extremely well on Saturday," Capuano told Newsday's Arthur Staple. "You can't win the way we played no matter who's in goal."

News of Montoya's start Saturday was surprising to many, given Rick DiPietro's assumed status as the team's No. 1 goaltender. DiPietro, who is signed through 2021, had a strong preseason but Montoya ousted him with an excellent training camp.

Montoya inks extension with Isles

March, 29, 2011
The New York Islanders continued their strategy of locking up affordable veterans who have performed well when the club announced a one-year extension for goalie Al Montoya Tuesday.

Brought in late in the season to help alleviate problems caused by a never-ending string of netminder injuries, Montoya has posted a record of 8-4-4 with a 2.35 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.

I have yet to see the dollars of the deal reported anywhere, but whatever the price you have to figure this is a smart move for Montoya to re-up now. The Islanders have been pleased with his play since he came from Phoenix and the market for goaltenders this offseason figures to be brutal, as it was last season when Jose Theodore barely signed a deal before the start of the season and a Stanley Cup winner was cut after earning a $2.75 million salary through arbitration.

For the Islanders, the motivation is a little more complex. With Rick DiPietro pretty much under contract in perpetuity and a number of young goalies in the system, including Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskinen, the crease might be a little crowded with Montoya in the mix. But with Montoya performing better than just about any goalie the Islanders have played the past three seasons, albeit just for 17 games, could the Isles really let a (partially) proven commodity slip away?

Assuming that the money is reasonable -- and let's be honest, that's not exactly a stretch -- it seems like a no-lose situation. At best, they've found a Tim Thomas-type who's finally harnessing his full talent. At worst, the goalies will have a little more competition when training camp starts.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 6, Islanders 3

March, 15, 2011

Recap | Box score | Photos

NEW YORK -- Here is a quick take on the Rangers' 6-3 win against the rival Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

WHAT IT MEANS: On a night in which four other playoff contenders were battling, the Rangers picked up two important points against the Islanders. The Rangers are now 4-1 against their New York rivals this season. The Islanders put themselves in a deeper hole with just 11 games left in the season as they try and steal one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders entered the night 11 points out of a playoff spot.

CERTAINLY SPECIAL: The Rangers aren't known for their power play, but the Blueshirts had a night to remember. The Rangers scored on their first three attempts, with goals coming from Erik Christensen in the first period, and scores by Marian Gaborik and Bryan McCabe in the second. Gaborik's goal increased the Rangers' lead to 4-2, while McCabe's score, his first as a Ranger after being brought over in part because of his play on the power play, boosted the edge to 5-2.

The Rangers also added a short-handed goal to open the game when Brandon Prust scored on a rebounded shot in the first. The Rangers have now scored 11 shorthanded goals on the season, second best in the league behind the Flyers.

QUITE CHIPPY: There's no love lost between these two teams. There were plenty of penalties and several occasions where the teams seemed like they were going to come to blows before Michael Sauer and Matt Martin eventually exchanged punches. They combined for 18 penalties, including six in the first period. Ultimately, the penalties came back to hurt the Islanders, as the Rangers scored on three of their power plays compared to one for the Islanders. The Islanders were whistled for 10 penalties.

POOR AL: Islanders goalie Al Montoya started Tuesday against the team that originally drafted him, but didn't fare too well, yielding five goals. Montoya had been drafted sixth overall by the Rangers in 2004, but the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist made him expendable and the Rangers eventually traded him to Phoenix. Montoya was pulled after the second period, but did make 31 saves.

SHOWING FIGHT: The Islanders showed some resiliency in this game by battling back to tie it early in the second period. The Rangers led 2-0 after the first, but goals by Matt Moulson and P.A. Paranteau tied the game at 2-2 just three minutes, 50 seconds into the second period.

UP NEXT: The Rangers will look to win their third straight when they play host to Montreal on Friday night. The Canadiens entered Tuesday night in sixth in the Eastern Conference and seven points ahead of the Rangers. The Islanders will head to Carolina for the third game in a four-game road swing.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Rangers

March, 15, 2011
The playoff chase continues at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night when the Rangers welcome the increasingly hot Islanders, 4-0-2 over their last six games. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops.

Hello, my name is Al Montoya. You drafted me. Prepare to lose!

You'd have to imagine there would be just a little satisfaction for the Islanders stopper if he were to defeat the team that selected him sixth overall in 2004 and then dealt him away after the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist. Montoya has been sensational for the Islanders with a save percentage of .926 and a GAA just slightly over 2.00 since coming to the Island. I'd imagine tonight's game in the Garden -- a stage he never made it to as a Rangers prospect -- will bring out the best in him.

A sniper spark

Marian Gaborik has already torched the nets once against the Islanders this season, with a hat trick back in early December. The Rangers would love for him to do it again. It's a bit of a broken record, but the Rangers really need to get their top scorer back on top of his game. He's got a goal and an assist in the last two games, so that's something to build on.

Scratch that

Wojtek Wolski won't be in the lineup for the Rangers tonight after John Tortorella made him a healthy scratch today. Wolski's line, with Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan, was playing rather well before the Blueshirts bolted for the West Coast, where Wolski went without a point in two games. While we'll have to wait until next game to see how Wolski responds, it will be interesting to see if those active tonight get the message as well: Tortorella is demanding maximum effort down the stretch. Sean Avery will join Stepan and Zuccarello in Wolski's absence.

W2W4: Maple Leafs vs. Islanders

March, 8, 2011
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.

Breakthrough Performer

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.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Flyers

February, 24, 2011
The Islanders take on the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night, seeking their first win against their division rivals since April 1, 2010. Here’s what to watch for when the puck drops.

Back To Reality Or Just A Blip?

The smoking hot Islanders were cooled off a little, losing 2-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday. Entering that contest the Isles had posted 33 goals over the previous seven games, scoring at least three in each matchup. The Isles will have to best a top-notch defense to rekindle that offensive flame Thursday night. The Flyers rank No. 8 in the NHL with 2.48 goals allowed per game.

More Montoya

Since arriving in Long Island, Al Montoya has been nothing less than stellar. He’s allowed six goals in five appearances and has been a much needed fix for a position that has been all too fluid this season (six different Gs). He’ll certainly be tested tonight against the Flyers, the No. 3 offense in the league, lighting the lamps at a 3.3 GPG clip.

Going Somewhere?

With contracts issued to Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, the Islanders don’t appear to have many players being shopped in advance of Monday’s trade deadline. One could be Milan Jurcina (4 goals, 9 assists), who is having a solid season (plus-one rating and one point shy of his career high), but could be pushed out next season by developing prospect Calvin de Haan or 2007 draftee Mark Katic, who was called up to man the blueline tonight. Jurcina sustained a groin injury against Toronto and is questionable tonight (last I read). If he does skate though, how Jurcina performs against a Cup contender like Philadelphia may be of interest to NHL scouts looking to stock up for the playoffs.

W2W4: Panthers vs. Islanders

February, 21, 2011
While most of the “hot team” talk has been devoted to the suddenly surging New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders have made a similar push, winning five of their last six games en route to a 7-3-0 record in February. The Isles will look to continue that trend this afternoon against the visiting Florida Panthers. Here’s what to watch for when the puck drops.

A New Addition?

On Friday, the Edmonton Oilers placed blueliner Sheldon Souray on re-entry waivers from the AHL. At noon Monday we’ll hear if anyone has claimed him. Could the Islanders tap the waiver wire again?

Earlier this season New York unsuccessfully tried to wrangle G Evgeni Nabokov to the island, but the goalie refused to honor his contract. They would likely have more luck with Souray who is looking to escape the minors and show NHL teams he has plenty left to offer. Not to mention the Islanders could use a defenseman with a booming slap shot to help run their power play. Add in that Souray’s $4.5 million salary over the remainder of this season and the next is now halved due to the re-entry waivers process and he could make a very appealing target for GM Garth Snow. Time will tell.

Getting Offensive

Look, Isles fans. It’s the future! The offense has been red hot lately for the Islanders, with New York putting up three or more goals in all but one game this month (a 3-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Feb. 2). During those 10 games the tandem of Michael Grabner (formerly of the Panthers) and John Tavares have combined for 15 goals, 10 by Grabner. The recently re-signed Matt Moulson has chipped in with 6. Seeing the team’s young talent playing to their potential has got to be encouraging.

Who Is That Masked Man?

Al Montoya recorded just his second career NHL shutout when he blanked the Los Angeles Kings Saturday, his second strong outing for the Islanders since coming to the team. (His first was a 37-minute relief effort in a 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.) Montoya now flaunts a .954 save percentage in NHL action this season and should get the nod this afternoon, though I haven’t seen a starter reported yet.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Canadiens

February, 10, 2011
The Islanders travel to face the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops.

Who Is That Masked Man?

The Islanders have been going through goalies like Liz Taylor goes through husbands lately. With Rick DiPietro sidelined after his brief stint as a prize fighter (record 0-1) and Kevin Poulin out with a dislocated knee cap suffered in warmups this past Sunday, the Islanders will again turn to Mikko Koskinen. Koskinen is the fifth goalie the Islanders have played this season. On Tuesday the 22-year-old made his NHL debut in a 5-3 loss to Toronto.

The Islanders also acquired G Al Montoya from the Phoenix Coyotes for a sixth-round pick. The ill-fated No. 6 overall pick of the New York Rangers in 2004, Montoya could soon see his first NHL action since the 2008-09 season, but Koskinen is expected to get the nod tonight.

Getting Offensive

At the other end of the ice, expect to see Canadiens backup goalie Alex Auld between the pipes. While that hasn’t been confirmed, All-Star starter Carey Price gave up a season-high eight goals in a fight-filled loss to the Bruins Wednesday, a game in which Price dropped his gloves as well. (Just for fun you should scroll through the box score of that game. And set aside a few minutes to get to the bottom.)

Since getting shutout by the Pittsburgh Penguins Feb. 2, the Isles have scored a combined eight goals over their past two games. Expect them to apply a lot of early pressure against a team that couldn’t stop the Bruins at all Wednesday night.

Uneven Strength

The Islanders need to improve their play when skating five-on-five. Their .66 even-strength ratio is the worst in the league. Considering most of the game is played with five-a-side and the Isles power play is nothing to write home about either (a middling 17.7 percent) the only real way for New York to compensate is to simply play better at even strength. Sage advice, I know.

Michael Grabner could be a key cog on that front though. Fifteen of his 17 goals have been scored at even strength and, remarkably, he carries a plus-4 rating into tonight’s contest. He’s one of only two Islanders in the plus column for the season, with Frans Nielsen (plus-1) the other.