In late March Al Montoya, 26, signed a one-year, $601,000 one-way contract with the Islanders. He hadn't played his sixth NHL game until joining the Islanders in February -- for his first NHL action since 2008-09.
|(NYI) Al Montoya||20||1154||9||5||46||2.39||585||539||.921||.929||1|
|(TOR) James Reimer||37||2080||20||10||90||2.60||1134||1044||.921||.933||3|
In the parlance of our times, neither goalie had a large enough sample of games to make a reasonable man bet too big or too long on their future NHL performance. But both were served an unexpected opportunity and -- unlike some goalies -- did everything in their power to run with it. Of goalies who appeared in 30+ games this season, only Vezina finalists Tim Thomas (.947) and Roberto Luongo (.934) had better than Reimer's .933 save pct. at even strength.
El Cubano's sample was just over half as many games and minutes as Reimer's, though Montoya's age and experience gives you a little more to go on. But of course that little more to go on is peppered with reasons he was still in the AHL before Don Maloney and Garth Snow arranged an offer he couldn't refuse.
Spend just two minutes at stats-focused (and soon Winnipeg Manifest Destinies-focused) blog Behind the Net and you'll pause over how much one can extrapolate from a fraction of a season's worth of goalie data -- to say nothing of a full season or two. The deeper you dig, the harder it is to numerically know what is repeatable from a goalie and what is subject to his team, his diet, his coach, his feelings about "Glee."
But for different reasons and in different contexts, both the Islanders and Leafs bet that they discovered more than just flashes in the pan during the second half. Montoya's contract is super cheap unless he ends up back in the AHL. (And minor knee surgery after the IIHF World Championship is some cause for reservation.) Reimer's is not bad at all if he works out -- and certainly a great savings on the $7 million cash and $6 million cap hit the Leafs were paying J.S. Giguere.
It's a neat story that both young goalies did everything they could with the chance they received -- and became minor cult heroes among their team's fans. It will be even neater if they pick up somewhere close to where they left off.