When Jaroslav Halak was placed on IR Dec. 27, we wondered whether backup Thomas Greiss could rise to the challenge. Ten days and five games later, Greiss has answered in the affirmative.
Greiss started all five games for the Islanders in Halak’s stead, compiling a 3-2 record to go alongside a .917 save percentage and 3.33 goals against average. The immediate numbers aren’t glistening, but they shine just the same when studied up close.
The hard facts tell a stark story of Greiss’ time as the starter, especially as they relate to an endorsement of his first-half performance.
Before Halak went down – he returns to the lineup on Wednesday – Greiss had a .933 save percentage and 2.03 goals against average, numbers that placed him among the goaltending elite. In his five-game stint as the Isles’ starter, his save percentage fell to .917 while his goals against average soared to 3.33.
For those hoping Greiss could prove himself a worthy starter, the numbers seemed to dampen expectations. And for those wondering whether his hot start was for real, the numbers seemed to pull back the mask.
But there is more to the story than that.
In the five games Greiss started – beginning Dec. 27 vs. Toronto and concluding Jan. 3 vs. Pittsburgh – the Islanders played some of their sloppiest hockey of the season. At times neglecting defense altogether, they gave up countless shots and surrendered scoring chances in droves, abandoning their own end of the ice like a bunch of hasty checkers players.
With Greiss in goal, the Islanders allowed 40 shots against per game; the league-average this season is 29.4, the league-high, 33.8. They were outshot in every game but one – Sunday’s win over Dallas – and still gave up 41 shots to that potent Stars offense. The numbers go on, but the point is this: the Isles were extremely fortunate to emerge with three wins in those five games.
And they have Greiss to thank.
So when evaluating Greiss’ cameo as the team’s starter, make sure you consider the context around the statistics. On the surface, his numbers look like an extreme regression from his season-long pace. But up close, they reflect his terrific play since October and validate his performance to date.
Will Burchfield covers all things ‘New York Islanders’ for thehockeywriters.com. A 2014 graduate of Boston College, he has extensive writing experience both online and in print.