The New York Islanders have lately been getting some solid goaltending from Semyon Varlamov as they continue their push towards the playoffs.
Back in December, I called for the New York Islanders to abandon their two-goalie system. My argument essentially stated that abandoning the system would allow for one goalie to get hot and the other to be well-rested and ready to slot in when needed. Furthermore, it stated that a perfect two-goalie system had not been employed by any Stanley Cup-winning team in the past decade.
At the time, the argument seemed absurd to some (check the comments section of the article) and unlikely to happen, as both
were playing well. In fact, at the time, Varlamov and Greiss both ranked in the top 10 in SV% and GAA among all goalies who had appeared in at least 15 games.
Nonetheless, following a poor performance from Greiss in Nashville on February 13, Coach Trotz has appeared to let Varlamov take over in net, at least for the time being. The results, meanwhile, have been fantastic.
Varlamov has started the last five games in net and has only given up a total of eight goals. That comes out to a GAA of 1.60. There has only been one other five-game stretch in the season for Varlamov where he gave up fewer goals. In that stretch, which occurred from late November into early December, Varlamov conceded just six goals.
Regardless, Varlamov is hot now, and boasts a SV% of .949 over his last five games. His one performance in Colorado, where he gave up three goals and recorded a .897 SV%, was the outlier. In any event, had he received a bit more goal support in Vegas and Arizona, he would easily have four wins over this stretch.
When Will We See Thomas Greiss Again?
Greiss had an awful February. He gave up at least three goals in each of his four starts, and failed to achieve a .900 SV% in any of them. For this reason, and because Varlamov has been playing so well recently, there would be no reason for Trotz to immediately return to a two-goalie system.
That being said, as the Islanders continue their push towards the playoffs, they will want to make sure that Varlamov gets a night off when needed. This is especially likely to occur when the Islanders have back-to-back games.
Fortunately for the Islanders, they do not play on consecutive nights again until mid-March when they will be in Western Canada. At that point, Greiss should be well-rested and ready to slot in for Varlamov.
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It was hard to advocate turning from a two-goalie system that had been working so well, but at least for now, the results seem to be positive. Now, let’s hope that the Islanders can continue to give Varlamov a little more goal support, especially because their upcoming schedule includes opponents who are a bit tougher than Detroit and San Jose.