It doesn’t get more even than this. Head coach Barry Trotz has used Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov equally, switching off between games as consistent as the sun rises and sets. The Islanders have alternated goalies for every game. Sitting in third in the Metropolitan Division, the strategy seems to be working.
“I think I want to keep them sharp,” Trotz said. “They’ve both done a tremendous job for us.”
The story has been predictable this year. Greiss helped the Islanders to a 3-2 overtime win over Columbus. Varlamov was in the crease when the Islanders beat Arizona on Thursday. Then Greiss. Then Varlamov.
Both Islanders goalies have posted impressive statistics to this point. Varlamov has played one more game than Greiss. He’s 4-2-0 to start the year with a 2.53 GAA and .918 SV%. Both of these are above his career averages. Greiss is 4-1-0 with a 2.18 GAA and .931 SV%. He too is playing better than his career numbers, even better so far than last year.
The question is, does the small sample size indicate that they’ll keep this up? I think they do. Here’s why.
Since only Griess has played for the Islanders in the last three seasons, this analysis will be more geared towards him. I calculated Thomas Greiss’ shots per minute played, or how many shots he receives in a minute of playing time. This year, Griess has seen .524 shots/minute played (as of Thursday, Oct. 23). That’s up from last year when he saw .517. However, in 2017-2018, Greiss saw .589 saves per minute played. 2017-2018 was also his worst statistical year on record, but last year was his best.
It’s Varlamov’s first year under Barry Trotz’s system, but in 2013-2014, he led the league in wins and posted a .927 SV% while seeing a league high 2013 shots against in 3640 minutes of play. His shots/min played that year was .553. He saw the same percentage in an injury riddled 2016-2017 season, which was his worst ever and when the Avalanche finished last in the league. Still, his .515 rating this year is promising (as of Thursday, Oct. 23).
If the defense in front of Greiss and Varlamov can continue to play well, expect their save percentage and goals against average to remain relatively constant throughout the year.
“If someone wants to take [the crease] for a few games, [I’ll] let him take it,” Trotz said.
But for now, both goalies are getting an equal workload and the team, especially the defense, is reaping the benefits.
“Both goalies kept us in a lot of games [last year],” said defenseman Nick Leddy. “They’re doing that again.”
Quotes courtesy of the New York Islanders
Statistics courtesy of hockey-reference.com