The start to the regular season is just a month away. But already the New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss could be facing a confidence crisis thanks to his participation in the World Cup of Hockey.
The regular NHL season is a grueling affair. Testing the absolute limits of an athletes physical and mental resolve from October to April, and maybe even further. For some New York Islanders players, the season got underway with their participation in the World Cup of Hockey, and for some, it hasn’t been a kind start.
John Tavares is having a predictably good World Cup with tournament favorites Team Canada. He’s got two goals to his name, is gaining responsibility, and finds himself on a full strength and power-play line with Steven Stamkos. His confidence is soaring at the moment.
Nikolai Kulemin finds himself remotely insulated on Team Russia. Much of the pressure for the Russian’s falls to its offensive powerhouse of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Malkin, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Internalizing any sort of negativity from the team’s performance seems unlikely for Kulemin.
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But for goaltender Thomas Greiss the fate of Team Europe is going to stick with him through the tournament and into the regular season. Specifically a ten-minute stand in the second game of the pre-tournament.
The worry for Isles fans is not only to get our players back in good physical shape to open the season on October 13th. We also need them to come back in good mental health. And after that opening 10 minutes, Isles fans should be worried about Greiss mental fortitude.
Thomas Greiss’ 10 Minutes
The debate going into the World Cup of Hockey was what goaltender deserves the crease for the New York Islanders come the season opener against the New York Rangers on October 13th; Halak or Greiss?
Halak is just coming back from injury so it was hard to tell if he was going to be match ready by the opener. Greiss had played so well in Halak’s absence and then when representing Germany this summer. Halak was brought in as the starter, but Greiss had a legitimate claim.
Islanders fans were going to get a good ole fashioned goalie battle for the crease between the two. Both were going to have to bring it to earn the crease. Then Team Europe played Team North America for a second time in three days.
For this game, Thomas Greiss would get the start. After 10 minutes Greiss was pulled from the game. Within ten minutes and 22 seconds, Greiss had let in four goals on eight shots for an abysmal .500 save percentage.
It was an utter embarrassment. Was it Griess’ fault? No. Look at those goals and you’ll see that Greiss wasn’t at fault for any of them. But that doesn’t change his save percentage or the sheer embarrassment he faced.
The Plight of the Goalie
Such is the plight of the goaltender. He’s the last line of defense against that black rubber disk crossing the line. The goaltender is often the scapegoat for a loss. But rarely the reason for a victory. Unless he stands on his head, he isn’t really noticed.
Team Europe let their goaltender out to dry, and Griess couldn’t bail them out. Team Europe coach Ralph Kreuger had no choice but to pull Greiss to get his team out of their funk. It almost worked.
What it won’t help is to erase the thoughts in Greiss’ mind, nor ease the feelings of letting half the shots he faced get passed him.
Greiss put in such a good body of work to get him named to the team, and in his first appearance, it goes south faster than Canadians do in December.
But at this point, it’s all for not as he is the clear backup to Halak for Team Europe and for the Islanders come the end of the tournament/start of the season in October.
It’s part of the position. Only one can be on the ice, and that generally goes to the one whose proved himself to be the superior player. At this point there isn’t a contest, Halak is the better of the two. Maybe Greiss can use the pre-season games between October 1st and 13th to show he can challenge for that starting role.