has been calm, composed and shown why he was a sixth overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He’s stopped shots from all angles, including a shorthanded breakaway from Thomas Vanek with 2:02 left in the first period against the Buffalo Sabres, preserving the Islanders 1-0 lead.
“The big save in the first period on power play break out cross-ice pass to (Thomas) Vanek was huge,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said of Montoya’s performance in the Isles 2-1 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday. “I thought they executed that play real well against us and he came up huge. Then in the 5-on-3, he made two or three consecutive saves on the back door.”
Montoya has led the Islanders to a 4-3-1 record in eight starts, earning a 2.07 goals against average, tied for 7th in the league, and .933 save percentage, tied for sixth in the league, with 18 goals against. Allowing just four goals in his last two games, Montoya has helped the Islanders string together their longest win streak since the first week of the 2011-12 season.
|Al Montoya and Steve Staios defend against David Jones at the Pepsi Center on November 10, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Though Capuano didn’t say his Cuban-American netminder would get the start in his hometown of Chicago, he said, “He’s played well and given us a chance… I’ve liked the way he’s been playing.”
Even his teammates have taken notice of Montoya’s performance. Forward Josh Bailey
said that Montoya has played a big part in the Islanders last two wins, limiting the opposing team’s scoring chances and allowing just four goals in the last two games.
“The biggest part of (our low goal totals) has been Al Montoya
,” Bailey said. “The way he has played over the last couple of games and all season for us really. As of late, that’s been the key really, is goaltending.”
The Islanders have killed all eight of the opposing team’s power plays in the last two games (Buffalo and New Jersey) and Capuano credited Montoya with stepping up and making some key saves.
“It comes down to your goaltender,” Capuano said. “No matter what you do on your PK, there are guidelines, but there are a lot of shots taken, a lot of conversion to the net, a lot of second and third opportunities. (Montoya) made some big saves.”
Capuano may not have talked about the Islanders defensemen and penalty killers, but Montoya gave credit to the players in front of him, as Andrew MacDonald
, Travis Hamonic
and Steve Staios
all had four blocked shots in the Islanders win over Buffalo.
“The team has been playing well in front of me,” Montoya said. “Last game I think we had 19 blocked shots so it is just a testament of everyone buying into the system. That makes everything easier on the defense and makes it easier on the goalie.”
I never thought this day would come. It’s here and it’s exciting. - Al Montoya
Playing at United Center in front of his friends and family, would be a dream come true. Though, Montoya said if he gets the nod, he hopes this will just be “the first of many” starts in his home city. Growing up, the Islanders goaltender loved watching the Blackhawks play.
“I remember growing up watching Ed Belfour,” Montoya said. “He was one of my favorite goalies, Eddy the Eagle. You had Chris Chelios, Tony Amonte… and I remember growing up watching those players play hockey, those buildings, always hearing about the old Chicago Stadium.”
Montoya added, “I never thought this day would come. It’s here and it’s exciting.”