New York Islanders Won William M. Jennings Trophy As Group

It’s been 36 years since the New York Islanders have allowed the fewest goals against in the NHL. Their reward is the NHL’s William M. Jennings trophy. Both goalies win it, but it truly was a team effort.

With 196 goals against, the New York Islanders finished the 2018-19 NHL regular season with the lowest goals against. A record that has won them the NHL’s William M. Jennings trophy. A trophy awarded to the goalie (or goalies) whos team allowed the fewest number of goals against.

It’s been 36 years since the New York Islanders last won the award. It’s also only the second time in NHL history and first time in 100 years that a team does what the Islanders did; go from worst to first in the goals against column.

Worst to First

The 2018-19 New York Islanders were the first team since the 1918-1919 Ottawa Senators to go from the worst goals against record to the best in a single season.

In 2017-18 under Doug Weight’s all-out offense system, the Islanders allowed 296 goals against. A low the Islanders hadn’t seen since the 1992-93 season when they allowed 297 goals against.

This season under Barry Trotz, a structured defense allowed the Islanders to shave off exactly 100 goals against to top the league at 196. That defense-first approach allowed the Islanders goalies to do their job effectively and put up some incredible numbers.

(stats from NHL.com, HCSV% from naturalstattrick.com)

Robin LehnerGAASV%HDSV%SO
Record: 25-13-52.130.9300.854%6

Robin Lehner has easily been the best free agent pick up across the NHL. It can’t even be debated. From putting up below average numbers in Buffalo last season to near league leading in the next? Remarkable.

Lou Lamoriello took a chance on Robin Lehner, and the gamble has paid off handsomely for him. Lehner can, and should, be with the Islanders for a number of years now.

After the season Thomas Greiss had in 2017-18 where he allowed just under four goals against on average per game and held a sub-0.900SV%, the expectations weren’t high in 2018-19. If he could just be a capable backup the Isles would be OK.

Thomas GreissGAASV%HDSV%SO
Record: 23-14-22.280.9270.847%5

 

Greiss flipped the script and went out there and put up starter numbers. His 0.927SV% ranks fifth in the NHL and 2.28GAA ranks fourth in the NHL. Last year those rankings were 54th for SV% and 56th for GAA. I know, incredible.

What both goalies have been able to do in such a short time is absolutely remarkable. But it still took a team effort to achieve what the Islanders were able to do this season.

What the Islanders were able to achieve happens rarely. It’s so rare that a single team of individuals is able to work on a single goal as a cohesive unit as we saw from the Islanders.

Team Effort

As the Jennings Trophy goes to any goalie that played at least 25 games for the team both Greiss and Lehner will have their names immortalized on the trophy. And deservedly so. But they aren’t the only ones who deserve credit.

The groupthink from Barry Trotz’s strategy and structure to Director of Goaltending Mitch Korn’s approach to the position to goalie coach Pierro Greco’s ability to transform both Lehner and Greiss’ games with hands-on day-to-day sessions deserves a ton of credit. They won’t have their names on the trophy but they should.

This was a team award. Something that Robin Lehner stated immediately after the game on Saturday night.

Both Greiss and Lehner will have their names on the trophies, and again, deservedly so. But this is very much a team award. This wasn’t two goalies standing on their head the entire season. It was a team working as a cohesive unit towards a single goal.