All bets are off in a Game 7. For the New York Islanders, this means Thomas Greiss should be in net, not Semyon Varlamov.
The New York Islanders are on the verge of collapse. After opening a 3-1 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers, they are looking at Game 7 and a potentially historic collapse. The fact that all three Flyers wins have come in overtime hurt just a little bit more.
On the bright side, if the Isles can pull out Game 7, we can forget the shakiness we saw in Games 5 and 6. However, in order for that to happen, head coach Barry Trotz needs to make a gutsy call. He needs to start Thomas Greiss instead of Semyon Varlamov.
Sure, it’s easy to characterize a goalie change as a “panic move.”
But it’s not.
Varlamov has been one of the best Islanders on the ice in Toronto. In fact, he was my first star for the decisive series win over the Washington Capitals. He was money in Game 1 against Philly as well, but since that point, the wheels have come off a little bit.
In Game 6, the Isles needed him to be better. At one point, the score was tied 4-4 and Carter Hart had 38 saves compared to Varlamov’s 10. Being locked in a tie game despite that kind of shot disparity is unacceptable. To be fair to Varlamov, the goals came on defensive breakdowns, but sometimes a goaltender needs to be able to pick up his defense in a big spot. He could not.
Varlamov was better in the third period and overtimes than he was in the first two periods, but it was too little too late.
Greiss, on the other hand, has been a brick wall during both of his opportunities to play in this series. He put the Isles on his back in Game 2 after Varlamov was pulled in the first period. Without the German netminder stopping anything and everything coming at him, the Isles never have a chance to come back from down three goals and force overtime.
Trotz tapped Greiss for Game 4, which was coming on the second night of a back-to-back. He turned in another gem, saving 36 of 38 shots en route to the win. Greiss isn’t afraid of the big moment and he’s shown that he’s capable of taking over at a moment’s notice.
All season long, Varlamov and Greiss were 1A and 1B on the depth chart. Yes, Varlamov has had some great moments in these playoffs, but there’s no need for Trotz to feel beholden to him. It’s time to ride the hot hand and that is Thomas Greiss.
Team president Lou Lamoriello knows what it’s like to make these kinds of tough calls. He fired his head coach with eight games left in the season in 2000. The New Jersey Devils ended up going on a run and winning the Stanley Cup. He told New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro something that still rings true today.
“If I’m gonna be damned,” Lamoriello said, “I’m gonna be damned for doing.”
Trotz and the Isles can’t stick with Varlamov because they’re afraid of making a “panic move.” They need to make the right move regardless of the optics. Start Greiss and be damned for doing.