New York Islanders: Greiss-Varlamov goalie tandem leads the way

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Every team stat says the New York Islanders should be in the middle of the pack, except for one. The duo of Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.

Take a look at the NHL team stats. Aside from one major category, the New York Islanders come in around the league average, at best, give or take a few places. Not much stands out on the positive side. There is very little statistical proof that shows why the Isles are the hottest team in the league, currently riding a 17-game point streak.

Upon closer review, it’s astounding that NYI is so good because the numbers say otherwise. They lead the league in giveaways ( 333) and are 21st in takeaways (163), a difference of -137. During the streak, their ratio of giveaway/ takeaway has gotten worse. The New York Islanders win only 49.2 percent of their faceoffs (21st) and again that stat is worse during the streak at 48 percent.

Special teams? NYI is a respectable 83 percent on the penalty kill (10th), but only mid-pack on the man advantage at 20 percent (15th). It’s not shots either, New York is outshot by 2.4 per night, for a total of 52 in 21 games. Power-play time? Hardly. The team has a league-low 83:43, which is less than the amount of time they are shorthanded, 102:01.

For those into advanced metrics, the answer isn’t easy to find either. According to Hockey Reference, the team with the fourth-best NHL record has the second-worst Even Strength Corsi % (roughly percentage of time possessing the puck) at 46.2 percent. Their Fenwick percentage isn’t much better at 47.5.

There is one advanced stat that provides a clue, Defensive Zone Starts (DZS%). In that category, the New York Islanders are third. The puck drops in their own end of the ice 52.8 percent of the time.

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The reason why DZS% is a big clue goes back to that one thing, their goalies stop the puck. The New York Islanders have been getting outstanding results from the duo of Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss. Only 51 goals have been allowed this season. Combined, the duo has produced a fifth-best Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.38 and fourth-best Save Percentage (SV%) of .922.

During the streak, Greiss is 8-0-0 with a .936 save percentage and a goals-against hovering around two. Meanwhile, Varlamov is 7-0-2, with a .920 SV%, and 2.44 GAA. Opponents can’t win if they can’t score.

How many times had both of these goalies been written off in their respective careers? Probably more than I can count. Head Coach Barry Trotz preaches a defense-first philosophy and it starts with the men between the pipes. Last year, Greiss and Robin Lehner won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed. This year the New York Islanders are the favorites to do it again. Since good goalie play is key in the postseason, the Isles could take home an even bigger trophy in 2020.

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There is another stat the Isles excel at, hits. They are knocking the tar out of opponents, averaging just shy of 30 hits per game, which leads the NHL.