As the New York Islanders veer their sights towards the post-season, Barry Trotz has a tough decision to make on who carries the workload in net this post-season.Goaltending has been a strength for the New York Islanders for the first time in decades, but only one of a remarkable tandem can bear the responsibility when it matters most.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 18, 2019
As much improvement Robin Lehner has shown this season, it has continually distracted from how much success Thomas Greiss also found. It’s already established that both netminder’s success doesn’t happen without the other, and the correlation is one of the most intriguing patterns so far this season.
In November, Greiss played nine games to Lehner’s five and finished with a 6-2-1 record with a .921 save percentage. In Lehner’s five games started, he finished 0-3-1 with a .887 save percentage.
The script flipped in December, Greiss went 4-3-0 with a .902 save percentage while Lehner finished as one of the stars of the month with a 5-1-1 record and a .962 save percentage.
From the start of 2019, both goaltenders have near-identical statistics as both settled into the system put in place by the coaching staff.
Though Greiss has played in two more games than Lehner, both their records separately make up exactly half of the Islanders’ games played. Whether or not this correlation was intended, the workload was split exactly down the middle, and due to this, both goaltenders had ample time between games to elevate and keep up their elite play.
While this is a huge reason both have seen so much success this season, history says the playoffs have to have a clear starter.
There are only 10 games left in the Islanders’ regular season, and there is still no “clear” starting goaltender.
This is where Greiss can make his case.
At the conclusion of the 2016 regular season, the Islanders finished with 100 points and were slated for an opening-round match-up with the Florida Panthers.
With starter Jaroslav Halak out due to injury, Greiss stepped up to the plate and delivered one of the best post-season performances in Islander history.
Not only were the Islanders massive underdogs in that series, but Greiss also entered and subsequently helped steal a series the Islanders had no business winning.
Greiss held a .944 save percentage and a 2.16 goals-against average in the six games it took the Islanders to dispatch the Panthers. The following round against Tampa Bay was an enormous disappointment for everyone on the team, yet the Islanders wouldn’t be able to recount that experience without the work of Greiss in net.
Lehner has shown all season he is a reformed goalie playing the best hockey of his career, but he has never started a playoff series before. His only post-season experience came with Ottawa in two games during the 2012-13 post-season.
While Greiss was thrown into his first playoff series in 2016, that decision was made purely out of necessity.
In this instance, the Islanders have two elite goaltenders who are both ranks in the top-five for save percentage.
Barry Trotz will have a decision to make that can affect how far the Islanders will go in the post-season. Fortunately, if this season is any indication, there doesn’t seem to be a wrong answer to this conundrum.