When it comes to the playoffs in the National Hockey League, every team needs more than good goaltending for a real shot at the Stanley Cup.
Last season, Washington Capitals’ netminder Braden Holtby was brilliant in leading the franchise to its first Cup in franchise history. Before Holtby, Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltender Matt Murray was tremendous in leading his team to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.
It’s an all too familiar story in the NHL. Good goaltending throughout the playoffs helps teams win Cups.
One team that has as good as chance as any of the clubs that make the playoffs this season are the New York Islanders. As of this writing, the club is second in the Metropolitan Division with 95 points, which is one point behind the division leading Capitals, and they are also the sixth best team in the entire league.
The club’s goaltending has been the main reason for the team’s success this season. The team is currently first in the league in goals allowed as they have given up 179 goals in 76 games, which means that they are allowing 2.36 goals against per games.
For a team that has been awful defensively the last few seasons, this number is unbelievable. Yes, Barry Trotz’ defensive system has played a big part in the team’s turnaround, but a lot of credit has to be given to the goaltenders.
That brings us to a very important question as we get closer to April. Who is going to be the starting goaltender in the team’s quest to win their first Cup since 1984.
Robin Lehner has been outstanding for the team this year. He is 22-12-5 with a 2.17 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage, and five shutouts.
Lehner, 27, is finally playing up to his potential and is showing his team and the rest of the NHL that he can be a great goaltender. This season, the Islanders have reaped the benefits.
The team’s other masked man, Thomas Greiss, has also been terrific this season. He is currently 22-13-2 with a 2.29 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage, and five shutouts.
Greiss, 33, has been solid for the Islanders since joining the team in the 2015-16 season and even led them to the playoffs that year. This season has been his best in the league and his play has been great the whole season.
So, who does the team go with in the playoffs? With six games remaining, it’s not like Trotz is going to be able to make a definitive decision because I am sure each goaltender will get some games so that they can both be healthy come playoff time.
With that said, it has been proven that sometimes, a two-goalie system can work in the playoffs. A perfect example of this was when the Penguins won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.
In both postseasons, each goaltender saw a lot of ice time and each were big contributors in helping their team raise the Cup both seasons. Yes, I realize that an injury lead both goaltenders getting a chance between the pipes, but nevertheless, that system worked.
It will be interesting to see what Trotz does. No matter which way he goes though, each netminder will give them a good chance to have success when it matters most.
*Photo: New York Daily News