October 10, 2011
At the end of his press conference, following the New York Islanders' 2-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild, Coach Jack Capuano was asked about goalie Al Montoya(notes) ($601,000 cap hit, 27 career games) starting ahead of Rick DiPietro(notes) ($4.5 million cap hit, signed through 2021) and Evgeni Nabokov(notes) (562 career games, 293 career wins) for another game.
The Capo said:
"You know what I … I'll digest this and talk about it after."
The vibe was clear: He knows the better Montoya plays, the longer either DiPietro or Nabokov will wait. Those outside Long Island will question his sanity. But the Islanders are now 1-1 with Montoya in goal and, more importantly, have killed 11 of 12 power plays with him between the pipes. "Your goalie's your best PK guy," said Capuano.
Montoya's going to sit eventually, but here's the thing: To go with him this early, and in consecutive games, Capuano's setting an important tone.
Montoya posted a 2.39 GAA and a .921 save percentage in 18 starts for Capuano last season, so he's rewarding loyalty. He also outplayed DiPietro in the preseason, so he's rewarding effort. When you have a coach that's asking for a balls-to-the-wall effort to personify Islanders hockey, the last thing he needs is to have a caste system between the pipes. Montoya's ascendance symbolizes everything Capuano wants out of this team.
We're unabashed Capuano fans, and not just because he's one of the few NHL coaches who sounds like an extra from a Scorsese film. He no doubt has the backing of management to play Montoya's hot hand off the bat, but it's still a gutsy call — and one that'll end up earning Capuano more respect than scorn.