February 20, 2011

Montoya Shuts Out Kings; New NYI FYI Episode Sunday

In the past few weeks after acquiring Al Montoya, many fans have wondered "who is this guy?" All they had to go on was two very shaky relief performances with some juicy rebounds.

On Saturday night, Montoya got his first start in an Islander uniform and made a statement to all those who showed up and saw good old what's-his-name in net: "You can call me Al!"

Montoya stood tall and made some key saves as he went on to shutout the red-hot Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in front of another large crowd. As the game went on, Montoya let up less and less rebounds and looked strong with each of the 35 saves that he made.

However, Montoya couldn't have done it without the help of some strong defensive play on the part of the Isles. The defense was much better than Thursday against the Bruins as they kept the Kings into the low percentage area's. That is something they had been doing throughout their nice little run, and none of it was there against the Bruins. I feared for the worst, thinking about how young this team is and that old habits tend to rear their ugly heads at times.

But my fears were quickly washed away as the Isles got right back on track and back to doing the things that have made them successful recently. That is some solid proof that this team has learned from some of their mistakes in this overall underwhelming season, and that's something that can't be overlooked here.

Matt Moulson scored two goals against his brother-in-law Jon Quick. They brought his goal total up to 23 for the season, making the Isles the only team in the entire NHL to have three guys with 23+ goals on the roster. Of course, this would not be possible if it weren't for the strong recent play of Michael Grabner, who has now not scored a goal in his last two games. But he has kept up his solid play away from the puck which is a good sign.

There really isn't much else to pick apart in this one without going through every player on the ice and pointing out what they did. We were able to see what happens when the boys are firing on all cylinders and more importantly all on the same page. Each defensemen had their moments, with the most notable being Andrew MacDonald. His play wasn't as good as it could be of late (even before he got hurt) but he was stellar while playing with the face shield and all. We generally see players have problems to adjust to the shields like that, but he seemed to be just fine.

Meanwhile, the Kings lost in regulation for the first time in 11 games - which covers a span of 29 days. This is a huge accomplishment for this Isles team, as the Kings have really propelled themselves back up into the Western Conference playoff picture with their run.

Collectively as a group, the Isles didn't hesitate to throw their weight around. Even players who do not normally hit at the very least tried to. This has been something you saw at times over these past few weeks too. This is an Isles squad that seems to have created a challenge for themselves. Many guys are playing at the top of their games right now and have developed an "us against the world" mentality. This is what I like to see, and hope that it continues for the remainder of the season.

The Isles next game is a Monday matinee at the Coliseum against the Florida Panthers. Matinee games haven't been too kind to the Isles in recent years, especially against opponents that the Isles should be able to run with. With many folks having Monday off (but neither of us do, of course) I would expect another big crowd. Hopefully they can treat them to a similar effort as Saturday night, and not the one they gave a big crowd on Thursday. It's very safe to assume Montoya will get his 2nd straight start.

NEW NYI FYI AT 11 AM: Be sure to tune in to our UStream page for the latest installment of NYI FYI at 11 AM as we talk about the week that was for the Isles and the NHL in general. It was a rather crazy one to boot, so it should be a fun show.



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