The season started predictably for New York Islanders backup netminder Thomas Greiss. Come in and help the starter with an 82 game workload. But as Halak sat out the later part of the season due to injury, it all changed.
The New York Islanders were Thomas Greiss’ fourth NHL team. In six-plus years playing in the league, Greiss never managed to play more than 25 games in a season. That year was 2013-14 when the then 28-year-old was playing second string for a Phoenix team that just missed the playoffs.
He played well that year. Posting a 2.29 GAA and a .920 SV% according to NHL.com. He didn’t last long in Phoenix as they didn’t extend him past his initial year. The process repeated itself in Pittsburgh where Greiss lasted a single year.
The season certainly started that way. But by year’s end, it had changed entirely. By the end of the playoffs, talks focused on how the dynamic in nets had changed and that Halak should actually be traded in favor of Greiss. Greiss’ Solid Play Paid Off.
Greiss’ Solid Play Paid Off
Greiss’ fortunes changed on March 8th, 2016. On that night in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Halak suffered a groin injury that forced him from the game and for the remainder of the regular season and the post-season.
Unlike other years. Greiss would be given a legitimate shot at being the starter. Over the course of the season, Greiss was able to play in 41 contest with a .925 SV%.
Greiss performed admirably as the situation became evident that he would be the starter going into the playoffs. In the 12 games remaining in the regular season after Halak went out with injury Greiss had a .904 SV% and a flat 3.00 GAA.
Not great numbers and certainly below is average for the season. But he did enough to get the Islanders to the playoffs with a 5-11-1 record in the closing 17 games of the season. And then Greiss’ true potential shone through.
Playoff Greiss vs. Playoff Greiss
In the post-season, we all got to witness exactly what Greiss could do. A first round series where he was the standout performer on the team, helping the Islanders win a playoff series.
He averaged 39 shots against over six games, earning a .944 SV%. If heroic doesn’t come to mind, think again. The Islanders were routinely outplayed by the Florida Panthers in the series but Greiss kept them in every game and gave his team a chance to win.
The second round wasn’t much of a respite for Greiss. He faced an average of 31 shots a night, but couldn’t save the Isles as they fell to the Lightning in five games. Greiss managed a .890 SV% over those five games. Not so heroic numbers.
The two series show the dichotomy that exists with Greiss. On one hand, he’s incredibly talented and very capable of being the starter that we need. But on the other hand, his inconsistent play is worrisome.
Greiss bailed us out when Halak went out with injury. And he helped us believe this team was headed in the right direction. He wasn’t perfect, or even fantastic, but he was serviceable and dependable.
Final Grade: B+