"Praise Billy, the season is nigh!"
In one universe, you have two former NHL All-, a first-round pick who put up a .921 save percentage last year, and two hot-shot prospects biding their time in the AHL.
In the alternate universe, you have a guy who was the backup on his AHL team last year, a guy who bottomed out in the KHL and didn't play after Christmas, and an injury-riddled guy who's played 39 games the last three seasons and put up a .886 last season.
Welcome to New York Islanders goaltending, 2011-12. The good news is those two hotshot prospects exist in both universes. And they follow behind three options who, when healthy and in form, can stop pucks in the NHL.
Six goaltenders looks crazy on the surface and doesn't seem sustainable, but ... well the Islanders ended up having to use six goaltenders in the NHL alone last season.
|Crazy Goalie 2010-11||GAA||SV%|
|Al Montoya (NHL-20GP)||2.31||.921|
|Al Montoya (AHL-21GP)||3.19||.878|
|Evgeni Nabokov (KHL-22GP)||3.02||n/a|
|Rick DiPietro (NHL-26GP)||3.44||.886|
|Kevin Poulin (NHL-10GP)||2.44||.924|
|Kevin Poulin (AHL-15GP)||2.19||.927|
|Mikko Koskinen (NHL-4GP)||4.33||.873|
|Mikko Koskinen (AHL-36GP)||3.49||.879|
I don't actually think I should bet on Rick DiPietro being healthy and staying that way. I don't actually think I should bet on Evgeni Nabokov rebounding all the way from last season. I'm pretty sure Al Montoya is at best an average NHL goalie (which is fine) and not the .921 guy he was for the Isles last season (but probably not the .878 AHL goalie, either).
Further, I probably shouldn't bet on Kevin Poulin or Anders Nilsson stepping up and taking the reins at the NHL level this year. (To say nothing of Mikko Koskinen.)
But goaltending being what it is, nearly homogenous in this day and age, I don't think it's a bad bet that at least one or two of those scenarios happen and the Islanders improve on their 23rd-ranked .902 goalie performance of last season.
The challenges lie in identifying if there's a problem mid-season and quickly taking action. Goalies have bad games and bad weeks. It will be incumbent upon the Islanders goalie coaches to watch closely and understand if something more than bad luck is going on. The season may very well depend on it.
To that end, Jack Capuano has made a habit of speaking about how players need to earn their place on this team. This summer he said the guys who stop the puck are the guys who are gonna play. If that holds true, the goaltending should be fine.
Assuming, you know, one of these guys stops the puck.
Other Previews in this Series: