If all goes according to plan, Doug Weight expects to get an earful from his goaltenders this season.
With no plans to name a No. 1 goaltender, Weight has Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss in what the Islanders coach envisions will be two veterans pushing each other for playing time in net.
“I expect there’ll be times when I’ve got the big German mad at me and times when I’ve got Jaro mad at me,” Weight said. “And that’s not a bad thing.”
Certainly not the way Halak and Greiss have played this preseason. Halak stopped 56 of 57 shots in his 90 minutes of work so far, only letting in a five-on-three goal to the Rangers on Friday in Bridgeport. And Greiss, who went the distance in Brooklyn on Monday night against the Devils, had also allowed only one goal entering the third period on Monday, making a few point-blank stops among his 21 saves through 40 minutes.
“Our goaltending was the best thing of camp, Weight said on Saturday, when he praised Kristers Gudlevskis and Christopher Gibson, who were sent down that day. “Guddy and Gibby, coming off the surgery played well. Jaro and Greisser, lot of good attitudes, they led the charge as far as preparation, attitude. It’s been good energy and it starts from that.”
Perhaps it’s a surprise to hear and see Halak so relaxed after a tumultuous 2016-17. He started slowly like most of the Islanders, grumbled a bit about the three-goaltender situation with Greiss and J-F Berube, then was waived and sent to Bridgeport on New Year’s Day. After three months in exile, Halak returned and won the final five games for the Isles in goal.
“I had a choice not to report when I was sent down, but I think that would be worst for me most of all,” Halak said. “I’m happy to be with the guys. I just want to do my best and you can’t worry about what you can’t control.”
He’s probably happier still that it’s now just Halak and Greiss after the last two seasons of three goaltenders sharing two nets. New goaltending coach Fred Brathwaite is still getting to know his charges and it seems letting the two veterans ease into a new season is working well.
That probably doesn’t matter much to the unflappable Greiss, who offers barely a shrug to any question asked. But Halak is more emotional and it’s a positive for the team to have him in the right frame of mind.
“He’s just found a good place with his career,” Weight said. “He enjoys playing the game, he’s great at it. It’s a bland statement, but he looks comfortable out there and it’s been a real good camp. When your goalie’s in a good place it usually means your team is in a good place.”