Today we wrap up the Islanders 2008-09 preview with a look at the goaltending.
1. Rick DiPietro:
Simply put one of the best goaltenders in the NHL according to Martin Brodeur who kept his club in contention last season in a stretch his team scored two goals or less fourteen games in a row and was named to his first all star appearance.
His All-Star debut also led to a knee/hip injury where he eventually decided to shut down his season in March when the club dropped out of contention after his post ASG play keyed a second half winning streak of six straight games capped by a 1-0 win against Tampa Bay. The media despite the winning streak ignored that and made a statistical argument that did not reflect his play or the quality chances against him up to the point he suffered a loss in the family. After that he did struggle in games against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay with some stick handling mistakes and penalties which the media then made it about Ted Nolan vs Rick DiPietro with the contract and his personality the story which never goes away, despite the goaltender never having a critical word in print for anyone.
DiPietro in his final game again played very well at Montreal before finally deciding to take care of his injuries. He had what was described as minor surgery again in June and for the moment there are questions as to his status during camp but intends to be a hundred percent for opening night.
I think Red Fischer in the Montreal Gazette said it best about DiPietro's puck-handing ability when he wrote after a January game in Montreal where he held them in virtually alone with the club unable to put two passes together all day at one point he shot the puck down the ice as if he was telling his defense and forward that's how you do it. He again toned down his wandering from the crease for the most part last season but his stick handling does keep clubs off balance and he did create chances. He almost scored his first NHL goal and when at his best is a third defender who gives the club every chance to stay in the game.
Moving forward it's fair to write without DiPietro at his best and keeping the club in games on what could be a very low-scoring club it could be a long-season but it is a deeper and strong group on the backline and it depends on the quality of shots against him and if the Islanders can hit the three goal mark and provide some room for a few goals against.
What former goaltender Scott Gordon can bring here could be an asset for DiPietro but we will not know until we see what kind of game the club will play in front of him. DiPietro has worked with a lot of coaches and former goaltenders starting with his current gm with Mike Dunham also a former teammate and former goaltending coach Sudsie Maharaj apparently making the occasional cameo according to a few reports.
The schedule this time around has several second half breaks unlike last season where this team did not see three days off in a row after mid-December, but it also has far more road trips. No matter what DiPietro tells the media it will be looked upon with skepticism and a negative angle despite his play that did not even merit updated local blogs come the ASG.
For those claiming he is injury prone, I do not know. The injuries he had in 2006-07
did not reoccur in 2007-08 and prior to 06-07 seemed to be healthy for the most part. The discussion of his games played cannot be set in stone months in advance despite those who feel it must be.
I guess his contract will always be more of the story despite some very ordinary goaltenders making close to the the same money or more in some cases.
2. Joey McDonald:
McDonald got a one-way contract which means if he plays in the AHL he makes his NHL salary but for the most part McDonald had a steady season for Bridgeport and did play very solid including a fifty save game in an overtime loss for New York in one of his few NHL starts. A late season loss and a few soft goals did bring some criticism out of Bridgeport fans for his play but he did have a few short stints in Boston and Detroit where he played a few NHL games and did not look out of place.
A this point he can dress as an NHL backup but unlike Wade Dubielewicz who loves shots, work and thrives when he is facing forty shots and gave every indication he can step in and carry a club it's impossible to know if McDonald can do the same.
On paper McDonald goes into camp as an NHL backup but that could change if he does not perform well or DiPietro's status forces a goaltender to be acquired with NHL experience.
3. Yann Danis:
Danis is kind of an interesting player in that he has six games of NHL experience in Montreal after playing for Hamilton but never played in more than fifty three games after graduating from Brown University where he posted outstanding seasons as a sophomore, junior and senior in terms of save percentage.
I tend to think the job of backup could come down how Danis does vs McDonald but there is a third party in this mix with some interesting lineage.
4. Peter Mannino:
Peter Mannino was signed out of the same Denver University the Islanders signed Wade Dubielewicz and until last season split the goaltending workload with Glenn Fisher where he posted numbers of 25-14-1 record, 2.27 goals against average, .917 saves percentage and six shutouts • earned All-WCHA third-team honors and Lowes Senior CLASS Award first-team accolades • named to the WCHA Final Five and Wells Fargo Denver Cup all-tournament teams • set DU’s all-time shutout mark at 15 and also ranks second all-time in saves percentage (.917), and third in wins (63) and goals against average (2.35) • finished season tied for first nationally in shutouts, sixth in minutes (2,301:49), ninth in winning percentage (.638), 20th in goals against average and 24th in saves percentage • ranked second in the WCHA in minutes, third in winning percentage, and seventh in goals against average and saves percentage • ranks among DU's career goaltending leaders in saves percentage (2nd), shutouts (3rd) and goals against average (4th).
Never say never but on paper it looks like he will battle the loser of Danis vs McDonald for starting goaltender in Bridgeport.