For the most part, starting last season, the new wave in the NHL is the 1A/1B goaltending system. The Islanders used it last year with Griess and Lehner, and are currently doing it with Griess and Varlamov. The Blackhawks are using it with Crawford and Lehner, the Oilers with Koskinen and Smith, the Coyotes with Kuemper and Raanta, and the Bruins with Rask and Halak.
The Islanders have rotated Griess and Varlamov every game so far this season, and have even made new club records while doing so. And while there is no doubt that the rotation has been a huge part of the Islanders success, it seems to be ending tonight in Dallas.
After their big OT win against the Golden Knights, there was much speculation that Varlamov, who had an excellent performance, would be getting his second straight start against the Stars.
It’s important to note that even if Varlamov is starting in his second straight game, it doesn’t take away from Thomas Greiss’ performance thus far this season. Thomas Greiss is currently in fifth place in both Save Percentage and Goals Against Average. In fact, Greiss has out-performed Varlamov so far this season.
Even though they’ve both played well this year, they’ve both had some down games as well. The most notable downs came in California, where Griess let in a weak Ondrej Kase shot during the Anaheim game and Varlamov let in a pair of softies against Los Angeles. Varlamov responded particularly well, following it up with a combined shutout with Griess, after Greiss left the game with dizziness at the end of the first period.
At the end of the day, Barry Trotz will be riding whoever has the hottest hand. That could mean that we see Varlamov in net for the next ten games, or we see him get pulled after the first five minutes tonight (hopefully that won’t happen). It just goes to show that the Islanders goaltending situation is very fluid and dependent on how Greiss and Varlamov play. But for right now, it looks like the 1A spot is Varlamov’s to lose. And you know what? Tomorrow, it can be Varlamov’s to win back.