As the hockey season draws near, there are many questions that will face the 2017-18 version of the New York Islanders. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the expectations are still high for the Isles. With an entirely new coaching staff and new blood ready to make an impact, this season could be something special, or the final chapter before major changes is made. Over the next 30 days, our Rob Taub will give his thoughts on what to look for from the blue and orange this season.
If you’ve watched the New York Islanders over the past few years, you’ve come to the conclusion that the goaltending has always had some weird quirks to it.
And while I’m not referring to the three-goalie situation, I’m talking about the Topsy-turvy turns both goaltenders have gone through. In 2015-16, starter Jaroslav Halak got hurt late in the season prompting backup Thomas Greiss to lead the team to their first playoff series win in 23 years. In 2016-17, Halak struggled and was sent down. Then Greiss took over, but then he began to wear down, leading Halak to be called back up and almost sneak the Islanders playoffs.
Is your head spinning yet? Me too. We can all subjectively agree that if the Islanders are going to bounce back and make their fourth postseason appearance in five years, there needs to be some clarity in between the pipes.
A little background to last year, when the team struggled early in the season, it was Jaroslav Halak who took the brunt of the losses. It seemed like the team felt more comfortable and played better in front of Greiss than Halak. Speaking of Greiss, he played solid enough to give the team a chance to win when they were down in the standings.
Halak was definitely not playing up to par as 2016 came to a close. His 6-8-5 mark led to g.m. Garth Snow placing him on waivers. He passed waivers and went to Bridgeport for conditioning and to regain his confidence. So after Halak was sent down, it was Thomas Greiss who was given the nod as starter, and he ran with it. Greiss would go 9-3-3 over a 15-game stretch which got him a three-year contract extension. As the team continued to lean on Greiss because backup J.F. Berube couldn’t find his game, he began to show signs of fatigue. It wouldn’t be till late March that Halak would return going 6-1-0 in the last seven games of the year.
The finish to the season for both Thomas and Jaro left a lot questions about the goaltending this coming season, but they might not be that hard to answer.
Halak and Greiss as mentioned earlier will not have to deal with having a third goaltender in the mix, which means they can become a solidified one-two punch. They did have that quality until Halak got injured two years ago. It was clear that after Halak came back late last year, he showed a renewed sense of confidence and more motivation, which he will hone this season. There’s also the fact that Thomas Greiss was overworked last season, and that he’s at his best when asked to start 25-35 games, not 40-50.
Both goalies can definitely be the number one, but in my eyes, Halak will be the one, while Thomas Greiss backs him up. It’s his spot to lose.
I don’t see each man getting 40 starts a piece, as that would not really allow for any balance, and probably might not reside well with either Greiss or Halak. You always have to take in to account that in the past, Halak does have trouble staying healthy, but also that Greiss can handle the load and help the team win. Hopefully that’s not the case and Halak can really grab the bull by the horns and get between 55 and 60 starts this season.
This year, things are going to be different for the goaltending of the New York Islanders. The drama of years past are gone. Both Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak are primed to do their part as a duo and individually to make the team successful. There’s not much else that needs to be said, it’s the Halak and Greiss show from now on.