Jaroslav Halak has started 16 games for the Islanders and Thomas Greiss has started 12 this season. That may look like a Nos. 1 and 1A situation, but neither goaltender is too concerned about who does what.
“It’s all about getting the two points,” Halak said. “Greisser’s been great when he’s played and I’m just trying to do my best to help the team win.”
Considering the recent history of Islanders goaltending, the fact that Jack Capuano can turn to either one of his goaltenders — and he will assuredly turn to both of them this weekend, with games Saturday in Columbus and Sunday in Brooklyn against the Devils — is a huge relief.
Halak set an Islanders franchise record last season, his first with the club after signing a four-year, $18 million deal, with 38 wins. But a .914 save percentage was probably of greater concern than all those Ws — that save percentage number tied Halak for 23rd in the league among goaltenders with more than 20 starts. Add in that the Isles last season were tied for sixth in fewest shots allowed per game (28.3), and you’d want more from your goaltender.
Even after missing the opening week of the season due to an upper-body injury and with just 20 minutes of preseason game work, Halak has done just that this season. He’s 10th in the league with a .925 save percentage among goalies who’ve made 10 or more starts and games like Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Flyers show his worth.
Halak was quick to dismiss any thought that he’s feeling fresher this season with a lighter workload due to the injury and Greiss’ starts. “I don’t make those decisions,” he said about who plays. “I feel good and I always want to be in there.”
The idea last season for general manager Garth Snow was to bring in a seasoned backup who could allow Halak to play 55-60 games and be ready for the postseason. Chad Johnson had a decent start to 2014-15, but tailed off so much that Snow went out and acquired Michal Neuvirth, who had been Buffalo’s starter.
Greiss has proven to be the steady Robin to Halak’s Batman so far. Greiss stole a couple games the way Halak stole Tuesday’s and the big German netminder has a very easy-going attitude that works well for a backup. He’s also fifth in save percentage at .928.
“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.”