Happy Labor Day..
Which bring me to the players who will have the labor the most if the New York Islanders are going to make the playoffs and have any chance for a Stanley Cup in 2007-08.
DiPietro had a season that should have saw him receive a Vezina nomination considering how many shots (quality shots) he faced per game. His 9.19 save percentage and the impact his absence had down the stretch when he suffered two concussions say is all about what DiPietro means to this team. Without DiPietro's improved play since January 2006, last year's team is in the NHL lottery. What was impressive about last season was he was a more composed goaltender who took less risks and let his ability to stop the puck make saves as opposed to gambling on low percentage plays. Unfortunately one of those risks came in a game against Montreal with another coming soon after his return. Come playoff time he came in cold and did a solid job, winning in his return in Buffalo and giving the Isles a chance to win every game. For this year his 4.5m/15 year contract was a bargain. Overall we saw some amazing hockey from DiPietro, highlighted by a fifty five save performance at Madison Square Garden where he stole a point for his club.
DiPietro's strength is not only his stick handling abilities but his mobility and quick glove in net. He also has an ability to anticipate what's going to happen in front of him that is only getting better as he reaches his prime as he's learned the league and the players on opposing clubs. He is the leader on this team and seems to be showing more signs of maturity. His shootout skills as a goaltender put pressure on opposing forwards to change tactics and gives the Islanders an advantage.
Even though DiPietro played over sixty games last season, questions about his durability are going to be a concern as will be the team defense which did an avg job protecting him last season. Over the long haul it's highly unlikely this team will go anywhere without Rick DiPietro who is it's MVP and a franchise goaltender who's only getting better. Isles protect him better and cut down the penalties in front of him he's going to be very tough to beat.
Dubie is not just a solid AHL goaltender for those who have been following him for years in college and at Bridgeport. He's a goaltender who can dominate when he is on his game. His goal tending numbers in the AHL as a rookie and two All-Star nominations suggest this is a promotion he should have received even as he came up and played some solid hockey in 03-04 with a solid relief win in Philadelphia and steady work in an impossible situation during Steve Stirling's final month in
2005-06. When Ted Nolan turned to Dubie down the stretch after Mike Dunham struggled he put the club on his back and played outstanding in the final four games with two shootout wins. After losing game one of the playoffs where he was good, but not specular DiPietro returned but Dubie was rewarded with a one way contract for next season with the NHL team.
Dubielewicz is not a fast mobile goaltender like DiPietro. He relies more on positioning and putting himself in position and never gives up on a shot. He seems to play better with more work as evidenced by a high shot total against and save percentage numbers that for years indicated he was too good a goaltender to be in the AHL as long as he was. Dubie is as durable as a goaltender can be, playing in three games in three days which is the norm with the AHL schedule. During the Sound Tigers-WBS playoff series a few years ago which Bridgeport lost in seven, he had several forty plus shots games against and held the club in as WBS came back down three games to one and defeated Bridgeport. Dubie was one of the few players who gave the Sound Tigers a chance and kept them in several games that went to overtime.
Dubie fell out of favor with Mike Milbury during the lockout as he was platooned with several goalies on a very poor Sound Tigers team which led to Garth Snow's three year extension. On this year's Islander team he has a one year contract and is no lock to even make the club. The question everyone will have is can Dubie sit as he never did in the AHL and come in and provide solid play. He already admitted he may have to go to Bridgeport to stay sharp at times as a backup. Going into camp he has earned a chance to compete for the backups job. Unlikely the Islanders go anywhere if DiPietro is injured but that's more about the team in front of the goalie. In the right circumstances Dubie can win in the NHL, he already proved he can play under pressure. If not the Islanders signed another goaltender with some limited NHL experience.
MacDonald played in a limited job for a poor Bruins club last season and did a respectable job, enough to where he will likely see some pre-season games in a competition with Dubie for the backup job. Like with Dubie this comes down to who can come in cold without playing for weeks and stop the puck? Given goalies do miss games there is little doubt MacDolald will see NHL action in 07-08. The loser of this competition will see a ton of work starting for the Sound Tigers.