The Islanders’ goaltending situation is the best it has been in a long time

It’s been a few days now since the New York Islanders’ fantastic playoff run came to an end. That time has allowed for a lot of reflection on how they got as far as they did and what the future may hold heading into next season, whenever that begins.

One of the keys to the future — and hopefully more success for the organization — is their goaltending situation. Even with the news this morning that Thomas Greiss — whose been a soldier for the team the last five years and is an unrestricted free agent going into next month — will most likely test the market, the Isles’ situation in goal is as good as it’s been in a long time.

Now some can argue their goaltending had reached its peak two years ago. The duo that season, Greiss and Robin Lehner, backstopped the team to a 103-point season, a first-round sweep of the Penguins and was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy while Lehner was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Or even prior to that when Jaro Halak and Greiss manned the net a few years back. Both those situations brought good success to the Islanders, but didn’t last long-term. But what they have now has the makings of being one of the best in the game, not just now but for the foreseeable future.

It begins with Semyon Varlamov and ends with Ilya Sorokin.

Varlamov’s coming off a career-reviving playoff run and has solidified himself as the true No. 1 in net. After a so-so regular season, he proved a lot of his doubters wrong by backstopping the Islanders get to the Eastern Conference Finals and nearly stealing the series against Tampa. His wonderful performance also showed why Lamoriello was so keen on getting him last summer.

“Varly has been there for us all along,” were the words of teammate Cal Clutterbuck during the Tampa series. Heed the words of Andy Greene as well too. “He fights out there and battles with us.”

Varlamov has another three years left on his contract, but after his performance this summer, it feels like he’s got a couple of good years ahead of him. Maybe not only as a starter but a mentor also to the phenom about to be described.

That phenom is Sorokin. This is where things look even brighter.

Sorokin, is the 25-year-old Russian star whom the organization finally was able to sign and get over to North America this summer. Despite not having played a game yet on this side of the pond, he is expected to be the future in goal for the franchise for what should be the next decade.

All the Islanders can do is look a few miles down the road to Manhattan and see what the Rangers have with his friend and fellow countrymen, Igor Shesterkin, for what they hope to see.

The numbers he put up in his KHL career were incredible and earned him the reputation as the “best goalie not in the NHL”. To the Isles’ fortune though, Sorokin is already signed for next season and got to experience the likes of the postseason because of the time he spent with the team while they were in the bubble.

“From an organizational standpoint, he’s working with our goaltending coaches all the days,” head coach Barry Trotz said about Sorokin last week. “He’s taking English lessons daily, with a tutor and learning that, and he’s getting English all day and hanging out and getting the personalities. From a standpoint of integration, if you’re a player coming in, there couldn’t be a better situation.”

“With Ilya’s background, that could create some tension. It has created zero tension, and you find out what a terrific person he is and how he’s integrated with the other players. He’s fit in seamlessly,” Trotz also added.

The Islanders have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. Their goaltending though, might be the most exciting out of all of it.

Their situation is in really good hands and is the best it’s been in a long time.

New York Islanders: Thomas Greiss will test free agency

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

The heartbreak continues for New York Islanders fans as Thomas Greiss’ agent confirms he will test free agency. This was 100% expected, though. The 4-year contract of Semyon Varlamov opened the casket for Greiss, and the signing of Ilya Sorokin laid him to rest. Thomas Greiss finishes his career with the Islanders as a top 5 goalie in franchise history. Greiss finishes with the 5th most wins, 6th most shutouts, and 5th most games as a goalie in franchise history. As much as his departure will be upsetting to Isles fans, you cannot look at it as a bad thing. Greiss is not an AHLer, but he’s not a 1A starter. He deserves a place where he can thrive and win a cup. Where are those places, though?

Washington Capitals

The Capitals are moving on from Braden Holtby in favor of Ilya Samsonov. But, a young goalie needs an old backup who can mentor him. Insert Thomas Greiss here. Greiss moves cross-division and becomes the backup to one of the best young goalies in the league. Greiss probably commands 30-35 games in Washington as Samsonov isn’t ready to play 50 games yet. This is the perfect signing for the Caps, and it’ll be cheap enough for them as well.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Thomas Greiss makes his return to Pittsburgh a whole lot better than what he once was. As the Penguins move on from Matt Murray, they need a backup for Tristan Jarry. Greiss again is the right guy to be a backup to a great young goalie. He’ll probably give them a discount as well. It makes sense for the Penguins and Greisser.

Vegas Golden Knights

Just a year ago, the combo of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss won the William J. Jennings trophy. The trophy is given out to the goalies who play for the team who gave up the least amount of goals. Greiss reunites with his partner across America. This takes Vegas from dangerous to “oh my god, who is going to stop them.” Vegas would be dumb not to try and sign Greiss.

New York Islanders: Barry Trotz must Change the Lineup for Game 7

New York islanders, Jordan Eberle

The New York Islanders have blown their 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. Game 7 is on Saturday, and the Islanders need to make some lineup changes. With little to no momentum on their side, the Islanders need to come out swinging. Not literally swinging, but pressuring the Flyers as they did in game 1. I’ve penciled in 3 lineup changes that I believe are detrimental for the Islanders to close out the series.

Thomas Greiss

Before overtime, the Flyers had 20 shots on net, and the Islanders had 50. What was the score, you wonder? 4-4. One out of every five shots that the Flyers took went in. This is not how you win a series. Thomas Greiss is the only solution to this problem. Greiss made some huge saves during game four as the Islanders took a 3-1 lead in the series. Griess isn’t always the most reliable, but Varlamov isn’t either right now. It’s a risky move for sure, but I believe this change must occur.

Tom Kuhnhackl

Tom Kuhnhackl was excellent against the Florida Panthers and was only taken out because of the Isles’ inability to stop the power-play. Now, the Flyers’ power-play is even worse than the Islanders’. Komarov isn’t better than Kuhnhackl on offense, and the offense is what the Islanders need right now. Kuhnhackl’s forechecking works perfectly with Pageau’s ability to jump up on the defense. You can either play Kuhnhackl and get more offense or stick with Komarov and see what works.

Jordan Eberle

Jordan Eberle had at least four chances to end the series last night. Playoff Eberle has fallen off the map completely. He’s taking enough shots, but none of them are going in. I believe he has to move down a line. I don’t know who you would move up because the “B-B-B” line is doing so well. Maybe moving Josh Bailey up a line is the right move, but that’s Trotz’s decision.

Conclusion

The Islanders only have one more shot at winning this series. This is the biggest game in Islanders’ history in 27 years. The pressure is on.

New York Islanders: 3 Key Players to Game 4’s Win

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

As New York Islanders‘ head coach Barry Trotz said, “that was the worst game that we’ve played to this point in the playoffs.” I don’t think the Islanders played terrible last night, but they weren’t good. Nevertheless, the Islanders take a 3-1 series lead. And for the first time in 27 years, the Islanders could be headed to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Islanders are clicking right now, and it’s a scary sight for all other teams. There were three key players to last night’s win, and they deserve to be recognized for their efforts.

Thomas Greiss

This was possibly Thomas Greiss’ last game as an Islander. Greiss gave it his all, as he made 36 saves on 38 shots. Greiss made some of the hardest saves look insanely easy. The Islanders are unbeatable when their goalies are clicking. Greiss didn’t make any mistakes last night. As Thomas Greiss said, “it’s not rocket science out there, just stop the puck.” Greiss gets the first star of the night for sure. If this is his last game, thank you, Greisser, for everything.

Brock Nelson

Who knew it could be Brocktober in Paugaust? Brock Nelson finally broke his cold streak and put up two goals last night. This is only the beginning of his hot streak; once Brock gets on a roll, he’s impossible to stop. Nelson possesses the best shot on the team by far. When he’s in front of the net with no one around him, you can bet on Nelson burying it top corner. The Islanders are dangerous even when Nelson wasn’t clicking; what’s going to happen to the league when he clicks?

Scott Mayfield

I’ve said it once, I will say it again; Scott Mayfield won the Islanders the game last night. Mayfield basically said, “okay, I’ve had it, this game is going to be over because I want it to be, I’m tying the puck up, outmuscle me.” And no one was able to outmuscle Mayfield at all. For the last 18 seconds, Mayfield kept the puck on the boards. Mayfield has a purpose, and he fulfilled it. Mayfield also got on the scorer’s sheet last night with an assist.

Honorable Mentions

Josh Bailey has to be mentioned as one of the top players. Bailey is now point per game in the playoffs. He is also tied for 4th in the NHL in assists during the playoffs. Bailey is the anchor of the B-B-B line and creates offense for everyone around him. Bailey has been criticized for too long; hopefully, now the criticisms will stop. JG Pageau deserves a mention as well because he’s the do it all guy. Lou Lamoriello should get a parade through the streets of Long Island for that trade. Pageau is tied for 3rd in playoff goals this season. How many playoff goals does that late first-round pick have again?

Conclusion

The Islanders are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Soak it in Isles fans, the day you’ve dreamt about is almost here. Nine more wins and you’re lifting the Stanley Cup. The Islanders play the Flyers on Tuesday at 7 pm ET.

New York Islanders: Greiss or Varlamov for Game 3?

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have a real lineup decision for the first time in 5 months. Should Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss get the start in the net? Varlamov got blown up in game 2 but has been solid during the bubble. Greiss is the fresher goalie, even though he just fought off 20+ shots in game 2. This decision is the biggest decision Barry Trotz has had to make in his entire tenure with the Islanders. Game 3 is a gamechanger in many ways. Whoever wins not only takes a 2-1 lead in the series but rolls with tons of momentum into game 4. Who’s the better choice to lead the Isles to a 2-1 series lead?

Why Semyon Varlamov Should Start

Semyon Varlamov is one of the best goalies in all of the bubble. If you take away this game, he had a 1.50 GAA with a .941 save percentage. Sadly, you can’t just forget about a game like this. Varlamov was beaten stick side three times and put the team in a hole very early on. Even though he had a bad game, Varlamov left the game around 6-7 minutes into the game, so he’s a fresh body for game 3. Varlamov is most likely ready to go back out there and show that his past performances weren’t flukes. The team and the fans respect and feel comfortable when “Varly” is in the net.

Why Thomas Greiss Should Start

Thomas Greiss was nothing short of excellent today, even though the Islanders came up short. Greiss’ only mistake of the game, wasn’t even his fault, it bounced off Anders Lee and sadly went in. Greiss is also a fresh body, even though he just played basically a full game. Thomas Greiss is a veteran goalie with a ton of playoff experience. There’s no reason for Greiss not to play other than Varlamov being the more talented goalie.

Conclusion

Whoever Barry Trotz chooses, the team must deliver tomorrow. There is no excuse to lose to the Flyers. The Islanders have and will continue to be the better team.

New York Islanders: Has Ilya Sorokin Improved Varlamov’s Game?

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

New York Islanders‘ goalie Semyon Varlamov has been nothing short of sensational during the playoffs. Varlamov is currently boasting a 1.71 GAA with a .932 save percentage. Not only that, but Varlamov also has only allowed five even-strength goals in 7 games. The powerplay goals are not his fault normally, but even counting those goals, Varlamov has only allowed 12 goals in 7 games.

The Capitals have astounding goal scorers like Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Jacob Vrana. The Panthers have studs like Alexander Barkov, Mike Hoffman, and Jonathan Huberdeau. Varlamov has been shutting down top goal scorers this entire playoff run. This play has differentiated from the normal Varlamov Islander fans all know. Varlamov had a 2.62 GAA, and a .914 save percentage during this season. There could be a reason why his play has drastically changed, and his name is Ilya Sorokin.

Ilya Sorokin

The Islanders signed Ilya Sorokin on July 13th, 2020. Sorokin is the best goalie outside of the NHL; his stats only back that up. For the last six years, Sorokin has had a GAA under 2.00, and 5/6 years he’s had a save percentage over .930. Most recently, Sorokin boasted a .73 GAA with a .966 save percentage during the KHL playoffs. Even though the KHL playoffs ended after the first round, it’s undeniable how dominant Sorokin was. Sorokin is now bringing his talents to the Island and putting Varlamov in competition.

Competition

Varlamov being the competitor he always has been, will not go down without a fight. “Varly” has fought against good goalies all his life. Braden Holtby, Michael Neuvirth, Philipp Grubauer, and Thomas Greiss. This competition is nothing new for the longtime NHL goalie. Varlamov, as previously stated, has been standing on his head this entire playoff run. If Varlamov continues this play into next season, it will be very hard to replace him as the starter. However, if Sorokin has been creating this pressure in practice, Sorokin could be the starter next year.

Conclusion

Seymon Varlamov is one of the best goalies in the playoffs right now. If everything is clicking in between the pipes and the forwards are scoring gritty goals, the Islanders are a hard team to beat.

New York Islanders: Thomas Greiss’s Future

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

New York Islanders‘ goalie Thomas Greiss is a fan favorite. It’s not hard to see why either, every time he makes a big save, the whole fanbase shouts “Greisser.” Greiss had an average year in net this year. Nothing in his performances really wowed anyone, but he is still the reliable 1b starter the Islanders fans all love dearly. Thomas Greiss, who has been on four different teams, is an unrestricted free agent this year. With the Islanders already having minimal cap space and having to resign Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews, there’s a big possibility that Greiss’s 5-year tenure ends with the Islanders.

Projected Contract

Thomas Greiss isn’t going to be looking for big money in free agency. Also, he may give the Islanders a little discount when it comes time to resign him. Currently, Greiss is making $3.3 million a year; this number will most likely decline. Greiss, who isn’t declining in play, is just getting old now. Normally old players don’t get as much money as younger ones. I project around a 2.2-2.5 million dollar contract for Greiss. Now, it’s not a huge number, but it’s a number that respects his play. This still might be way too much money for the Islanders. The Islanders are looking at around 12.3 million dollars this offseason, and again have that big three they have to resign.

Ilya Sorokin

Ilya Sorokin will take Thomas Greiss’s job either now or really soon. I don’t expect the Islanders to let Sorokin rot in the AHL with Brent Thompson. Also, Sorokin is the best goalie outside of the NHL. His stats, which are insane, still don’t do the man justice. The Islanders aren’t going to let Sorokin waste time, as he’s already 25. Sorokin’s development will spell the end for Greiss.

Future Teams

A lot of teams need a new goalie. The Penguins will need one when they make Murray leave. The Leafs might need one to be a backup. The Red Wings obviously need a new goalie. The Capitals could use a goalie if they let Holtby walk. Greiss is good enough to play 30 games a year still, and contending teams need that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Greiss wins a cup within the next 2-3 years with another team. He’s still a solid goalie, but there’s not enough room for him on the Islanders. There are other teams that will pay better and feature him every other night.