As the NHL’s worst team when it comes to stats like shots allowed and high-danger chances given up, it would be pretty silly to pin all of the New York Islanders’ woes on their goalies.
Still, there’s a cut-off where you have to expect a certain level of competence even behind a faulty defense. Jaroslav Halak and especially Thomas Greiss have been part of the problem for much of 2017-18, but with the fan angst at a fever pitch to the point of generating money to buy “Snow Must Go” billboards, the Isles’ two goalies are doing the former-backup-turned-GM some serious favors.
On Thursday, the Islanders were bombarded with 50 shots on goal, yet Halak pitched a shutout against the New York Rangers on the way to a 3-0 win.
Tonight, Islanders coach Doug Weight gambled on putting Greiss in net instead of “riding the hot hand,” and instead rode the hot duo. The Islanders beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 as well, even though Carolina nearly doubled them in shots on goal (45-23).
So, in a back-to-back set against Metropolitan Division rivals also fighting desperately for playoff positioning – albeit one also eyeing a possible rebuild at the same time – the Islanders suffered a 95-58 shots on goal disparity, yet won by a combined score of 6-0.
No doubt about it, these consecutive wins do little to quiet the argument that this team is really struggling to limit scoring chances. It’s fair to wonder about Weight, Snow, and others, even with these victories.
Still, a more confident goalie tandem could really move the needle.
Halak had already been showing some signs of improvement. He’s been heating up since the All-Star Break ended, in particular, with a .925 save percentage over the last eight games. The veteran goalie went on an impressive (if too-little, too-late) last season, so it’s possible that Halak might turn things around once again.
Greiss almost certainly needed his shutout more, though.
The 32-year-old carried a hideous .885 save percentage into this game. For a goalie with a respectable .912 career save percentage and no full season under .908,* it’s been a bewilderingly bad run for the German.
If Halak and Greiss could merely steal some wins here and there, the Islanders could turn their attention to adding a little bit of talent on defense, where they’re clearly ailing. Some injuries have made things more difficult, so improving in that area and getting better goaltending could make the difference in a postseason run versus another gut-punching finish.
Actually, considering the terrifying one-two punch on offense in John Tavares and Mathew Barzal, the Islanders could go from dour to downright scary if they merely become competitive in their own end.
* – Technically, he suffered an .860 save percentage with San Jose in 2007-08, but that was in just three games.