The NHL is filled with several elite goaltenders. Many may think along the lines of Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne. However, there are some goalies who manage to slide by and still manage to be playing a very strong backstopping game.
Thomas Greiss, a goalie who currently plays for the New York Islanders in the National Hockey League (NHL), has served as a confident back up for many teams; San Jose Sharks, Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Posting good numbers with his previous teams, Thomas Greiss is currently making his case for more than a back up goalie position. But really, who is Thomas Greiss?
Simply put, Thomas Greiss is a product of Füssen, a southern town in Germany right near the Austrian border. Beginning to play hockey at the age of six, Greiss states that he began as a goalie and never looked back. Standing at a height of 6’1 and weighing in at 220 pounds, the big German netminder was selected 94th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks. Greiss has also represented his native Germany numerous times. Excluding the World Juniors, he has been seen in net for Germany in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, as well as the 2010 World Championships. It was noted that in the 2006 Winter Olympics, Greiss was the youngest goalie to earn a roster spot in the entire tournament, being the starter for the Germans at the young age of 20. This was Greiss’ first real taste of professional hockey on the world stage. Following those 2006 Winter Olympics, Greiss started his first career NHL game on January 13, 2008, against the Sharks rivals the Ducks, in which Anaheim won 4-3 in overtime. His first official win came in the 2011-2012 Sharks season opener, wherein Greiss and the Sharks left Phoenix with a 6-3 win. Two years later, after a constant back and forth between San Jose and their AHL affiliate club at the time Worcester, Greiss recorded his first career NHL shutout on January 26, 2013, recording 24 saves in a 4–0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Turning over to the statistics side of things. In 89 career NHL games with San Jose, Phoenix (now Arizona) and Pittsburgh, he recorded a 36-30-11 record with a .913 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.47 goals against average.(GAA). Having signed in New York with the Islanders as a free agent on July 1st, he has made his presence felt both on and off the ice. Currently sporting a 2.03 GAA and a .933 SV% in 13 games this season, he is fourth and sixth respectively in those categories in the entire league. Many may say that because he plays the role of a backup, and therefore does not play as many games as a consistent 50-60 game starter, it is normal for him to have better numbers than those who are considered elite. It is true, such an argument can be made as statistics can be misleading, however Greiss is continuing to push for more time in the Islanders net although Halak is not to be forgotten of course.
During a press conference early this season (2015-2016), Islanders head Coach Jack Capuano told the media he is happy with how Greiss is playing and how he is fitting in with the team. He goes on to say how impressed he is with Greiss’ ability to stick handle and alleviate some pressure off of the defenseman. His unique and underrated style of play has come together with an Islanders team looking to reach the playoffs for a second straight year. The Islanders bench boss also states how Halak and Greiss have “healthy competition” between each other. Both seem to be good friends and have a good friendship off the ice. Halak has been quoted as saying “It is a long season. It is good that we can have two goalies ready all the time”.
In the past few years, the Islanders have not been able to find a confident, consistent back up goalie for both Halak and Nabokov when he played with them. They went through Kevin Poulin, Chad Johnson and Michal Neuvirth – all good goalies but all unable to secure that back up spot like Greiss has. The opportunity had just presented itself for Greiss during the 2015-2016 season as he was the season opening starter for the Islanders due to Halak nursing an injury. From there, he has kept up his strong play. Capitalizing on that opportunity, the Islanders have finally nailed down a healthy goaltending situation. The Islanders now have a strong starter with a more than reliable back up who is likely (if he continues at this pace) to play more than the average amount of games classified for back up goaltenders. To date, Greiss has started 14 games compared to Halak’s 18 – a close ratio if we are talking about the back up/starter position. To put that in perspective, Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has started 25 of 30 games, with backup Jhonas Enroth starting five.
Although coach Capuano has reminded the league that the quiet Slovakian, Halak, is their guy, Greiss has raised eyebrows not just in New York, but all over the NHL. Most recently, Greiss has tied his career high in wins at 10 and the season is not even halfway done. He has and continues to impress the NHL world and despite playing under 100 games in his career, Greiss is soon to emerge as a proficient goaltender who can possibly solidify a starting job in the NHL.
Forever modest and friendly, Thomas Greiss is doing what he does best; help. He may for the rest of his career be underrated, but that does not mean he cannot take a heavy workload. The Islanders are confident with Greiss in net and he seems to have found a home in New York.
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