Doug Weight’s hesitancy to play Christopher Gibson mirrors the behavior shown to J.F. Berube during the 2016-17 season. It’ll ultimately cost the New York Islanders a playoff berth.
Chris Gibson‘s 2017-18 debut may have been another example of the New York Islanders inability to capitalize on spectacular goaltending—but it was far more than that. Doug Weight has been his own worst enemy throughout the Islanders season-ending skid.
Gibson has been with the Islanders since Thomas Greiss went down with an injury. Since Feb. 19, Gibson has started just one of the Islanders last six games. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it should. When the Islanders missed the playoffs last season, it was in part due to Weight’s hesitance to play backup goalie J.F. Berube.
To recap, last season Weight relied heavily upon Thomas Greiss, who at one point at around this time last year, had started 33 of 37 contests for the Isles. Weight’s obvious distrust of Berube was reflected by the netminder in what few starts he had, and that buried his time as an Islander once Jaroslav Halak was recalled to the Isles.
This season, Halak has become Weight’s go-to goalie. Jaro has played well to earn the spot, but he can’t do it alone and is especially the case with his extended history of injury. Gibson’s display against Pittsburgh was a promising show, and at this point in the season, the Islanders need to give Gibson a looser leash. The Isles may have allowed another three goals, but Gibson’s 47 saves on 50 shots gave him a .940 save percentage on the night.
On top of the problem in goaltending, the Islanders have been ironically hit with bouts of inconsistency from their first line. John Tavares has only two goals and three points in his last 10 games, and ditto for Josh Bailey while Anders Lee collected two goals and five points in the same stretch.
Weight’s attempts to break the offense out of its funk have been lukewarm at best. Tavares was shuffled with Mathew Barzal in what was essentially the two centers trading linemates, and most recently Tanner Fritz was playing alongside JT on the top line. Some of the combinations that were cobbled together were indicative of a coach desperately grasping for a solution somewhere.
The Islanders defense has been consistently poor all season long, but in their last six games, the Islanders—with the exception of the game in Pittsburgh—allowed a maximum of 32 SOG and even holding off the Canadiens to 26 and 25 shots apiece in their two losses. The Isles have led the league in shots against for most of the season, but in their recent stretch of losses, the blame shifts to the blue crease in light of some adjustment defensively.
An uptick in the shot surpression numbers for the Isles will only make things easier on the goaltending, which is in need of a new breath so that Halak doesn’t have to shoulder all of the work. Playing Gibson more will allow Halak some breathing room and will at least allow him to make his case for the backup position which is likely up for grabs with Halak set to become a free agent at the end of this season.
At this point in the season, it frankly can’t hurt. Greiss’ .891 save percentage is abysmal and the sooner the Islanders start exploring their options in net, the better.