Sunday, December 13, 2015

Islanders Surging Thanks to Two Hot Goalies

The New York Islanders have employed surprisingly good goaltending and stingy defense to overcome an offense that has been sporadic and inefficient at times. The team's first line, led by all-star John Tavares, has struggled, and they were dangling on the precipice of playoff contention a month ago, but since then the Isles have surged to take 18 out of a possible 20 points in their last ten games. The boys from Brooklyn (still sounds funny, doesn't it?) pulled ahead of the Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division after Sunday's 4-0 shutdown of the Devils.

The Islanders have had to eke out quite a few points during the streak, but on Sunday they avoided overtime for the first time in six games thanks to a shutout from backup goalie Thomas Greiss, his first as an Islander. Greiss, 29, has already played 14 games this season, and he was the Islanders main man early in the season when Halak was out with an upper body injury.

It could have been a difficult start to the season for the Islanders but Greiss has been consistent and effective from the start. He's poised, and rarely seems out of position. He's not a flashy puckhandler but he makes sound decisions, puts his defenseman out of harm's way and rarely gets caught making a bonehead play. He's been so good that the Islanders now have a bit of a two-headed monster between the pipes, and that could serve the team well down the stretch when other goalies are weighed down by the weight of 60-plus game seasons.

A quick glance at the stats and it's hard to tell which goalie has been better. Greiss is 9-3-2 with a .933 save percentage and a 2.03 GAA. Halak, who has been exceptional as well since his return, has gone 9-4-3 with a .926 save percentage and a 2.04 GAA.

Either way you slice it, it makes things tough for opposing shooters.

New York improved to 18-8-5 on Sunday, and they have allowed just 18 goals in their 10-game points streak.

More importantly, both Greiss and Halak appear to be fine with their playing time. In other words, Halak doesn't mind a lighter workload (he's still clearly the No. 1 in coach Jack Capuano's eyes) and Greiss is thankful to have the extra reps. The German has never played more than 25 games in an NHL season but he figures to play at least 15 of the Isles final 52 games this season. That would give him five more than his career-high.

“It’s good to get in a rhythm and play some games, of course,” Greiss said. “You just want to be ready. I think it’s worked great so far.”