By Chris Boyle
Possessing elite goaltending is the equivalent of a video game cheat code. It helps you avoid prolonged slumps in play and virtually assures you of yearly playoff contention. When you don’t possess it, some of your underlying issues are exposed.
The Islanders possess a franchise-defining center, but they have struggled to find secondary scoring so far in the early-going this season.
Even with the team having some struggles scoring at even strength, the Islanders are still only slightly below a 50-percent expected goal differential at .486 (expected differential is based on location + pre-shot movement). The Islanders aren’t producing a ton of offensive opportunities, but they are finishing them at a slightly above average rate.
When we break down the Islanders’ goaltending into advanced data, we see where the contrast lies in their individual performances. Jaroslav Halak has received more of the workload as I write this.
When I break down distance and pre-shot movement, the data shows that Halak is currently underachieving. I have highlighted average results in gray with Halak’s results in orange. We can see he is below the league average on difficult shots, denoted as “High Danger.” When the Islanders have exposed his backside through slot-line opportunities or rebounds, his success rates dip below average expectations.
Thomas Greiss offers a stark contrast. He has been extremely successful in scenarios where he has been left in desperate situations.
He has had the most success on shots in high danger areas with pre-shot movement. Greiss has dominated slot line-passes, tipped shots and rebound opportunities, very similar to his playoff performance vs. the Panthers this past spring. Generally, this success comes at the expense of clear-sighted looks because of the tendency to cheat towards the breakdown possibility.
Visually and statistically Greiss has been the better of the goaltenders through the early portion of the season and is giving the Islanders a better opportunity to win. He should be getting a run as the starter and at a minimum looking at a 50/50 split. While his high-leverage success is guaranteed to regress, his low leverage ones will also regress upwards toward normal levels.