The Islanders pulled themselves into a playoff spot for the first time in weeks after Friday night’s miracle, and their continued presence there depends on one player’s turnaround. Still, the Isles must cut ties immediately.
Jaroslav Halak entered Friday night’s game with 10:06 left in the third period after Thomas Greiss allowed the Red Wings’ fifth goal, a trend he was definitely looking to buck, especially after allowing at least four goals in all of his starts since December 16’s 4-3 overtime win over the L.A. Kings.
The Islanders pulled away with a win, but only after scoring an unprecedented four goals on the same five-minute major. Plus, some overtime magic was called upon from Brock Nelson to cap his second-career hat trick and complete the comeback for the Islanders, who won 7-6.
It was a night that Islanders fans are sure to remember, but now that the dust has settled on the celebration, there is a situation going on between the pipes that must be addressed.
Cold as Greiss
It’s been difficult to watch Greiss this season, and oftentimes painful. Friday night was another in a long-running saga of struggle for him. More than anyone on that roster, Greiss was — and is — in desperate need for that rebound game, that one contest that a player can address the media with nothing but smiles after.
Unfortunately, Greiss will have to keep digging for that shot.
What started out as another promising season for Greiss quickly turned sour as the opportunity was laid out for Halak to reclaim the starting job.
Two years ago, Greiss had taken over as the Islanders’ starter after Halak tore his groin in a 2-1 win over the Penguins. Greiss set a career-high in save percentage (.925) and, at the time, wins (23).
Last season, Greiss was heavily relied upon and set his career-high in wins with 26. It was from those spectacular efforts that earned him a three-year contract extension which kicked in this season.
With the exception of opening night, Greiss started 2017-18 on a fairly strong note: a 2.50 GAA coupled with a .916 save percentage — not bad, right? That also includes the ridiculous 40 save outing he had against the San Jose Sharks which now seems so long ago.
Game by game, things started to go south for Greiss. Now sitting with season totals of both a .885 save percentage and a 4.06 GAA, when will the Islanders decide that enough is enough?
General Manager Garth Snow was asked about his concern for Greiss on Wednesday, and he offered this, according to Steven Marcus of Newsday:
“I have concerns with any player. And it’s concerns in regards to helping the coaching staff and the player find the solution to help that player perform at peak performance.
“We’re fortunate that we have Jaro Halak, who was the top goaltender in the World Cup a little over a year ago. He’s got a tremendous track record of clutch playoff performances. Without Thomas Greiss two years ago, we don’t advance to the second round. Last year, he was excellent for us. It got to the point where we probably played him too much and fatigue set in. For us, we know we have two quality goalies. It’s finding the right solutions to help them perform at peak level.’’
In December of 2016, the Isles wasted absolutely no time in demoting Halak when his .906 save percentage wasn’t cutting it. Why then has Greiss been allowed to figure himself out at the expense of the Islanders record?
After all, Halak handled his situation with class and when called upon by the Islanders he nearly guided them right into the post-season. 2016-17’s campaign was cut at least four games short by a single point—a point that was attributed to the Islanders not addressing their lingering issues in net.
With 25 games left in the season (and 14 days before the trade deadline), are the Islanders going to let the same mistake hold them back for the second-consecutive season?
The 2016-17 season was what it was, but now the Islanders are in one of the franchise’s most pivotal points in history.
The Islanders simply cannot afford to waste a top-tier forward corps and leave John Tavares questioning whether or not his squad has the potential to excel with just a couple of months left before he’s set to hit the open market.
From a historical standpoint, where this Islanders team goes is contingent on both netminders picking up their slack. Halak has elevated his game, and with every game’s exponentially increasing importance, there’s no more room for adjustment.
It’s time to waive Thomas Greiss.