A lower-body injury to Jaroslav Halak has opened the door for Thomas Greiss to lead the Islanders into the playoffs. Can he handle the extra workload?
Throughout their season, the New York Islanders have had a two-headed monster in net with Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss basically splitting starts. With 18 games remaining and right smack in the middle of a playoff race, that monster lost one of its heads after Halak left Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a lower-body injury that will sideline him for a minimum of six weeks. It’s now Greiss’ net and one has to wonder if he can handle the extra workload.
For all of Greiss’ seven years in the NHL, he has been the backup for four different teams. He has never played in more than 25 games in a season and Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs marks his 30th for this season. You have to assume he’ll receive a bulk of the 18 remaining games. At the beginning of the season, I doubt General Manager Garth Snow envisioned his backup goaltender potentially playing in 45+ games.
Despite having to play in more games, it looks like Greiss is more than capable of leading the Islanders into the playoffs.
In his 30 games played, Greiss is 18-6-4 with a 2.20 goals against average and a save percentage of .930 (all career highs). Not only is it a career high, but his .930 save percentage is good for best in the league. Greiss has been a big reason the Islanders are on pace for a franchise-low of 204 goals against in an 82-game season.
In the last 18 games, the Islanders play a team currently in a playoff position in 10 of those games. The quality of teams Greiss will have to face coming up is pretty strong, but if this season is any indication of how those games will play out, the Islanders have to like their chances. Of his 10 losses in regulation or overtime, he has only lost to a playoff team three times. With his nine wins against playoff teams in 12 chances, he has already played against the best teams frequently and he has emerged victorious, which is a great sign for the Islanders.
Despite having one of the better records, the Islanders give up a lot of shots against in a game so a strong goalie is a must for this team. Greiss faces an average amount of 29 shots against per game. He’s had four games where he faced over 40 shots and he’s won each of them.
A team that gives up a lot of shots isn’t terrible to have as long as your goalie challenges the shooter, gives him nothing to shoot at, and controls his rebounds. These are some of Greiss’ greatest strengths as a goalie. As you can see below, Greiss comes out of his crease to cut down Justin Williams‘ angle and does a great job of preventing a rebound.
With the way Greiss has played this year, there is no reason to doubt he can’t keep the Islanders where they are or even have them jump the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Greiss has shown elite goaltender ability all season long against top opponents, so the Islanders have to feel confident moving forward with him.
Edited by Emily Berman.
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