The New York Islanders season has been lost after an eight-game losing streak relegated them to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
Now nine points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the team and its supporters are left to rue “what if?” rather than preparing for a possible postseason run.
At the NHL trade deadline just three weeks ago, the Islanders were two points out of a playoff spot with pressing needs along their blue line.
New York’s defense is the worst in the NHL, allowing 245 goals in 69 games thanks to a unit that often gives away prime scoring chances and are incapable of limiting shots that come its goaltender’s way.
Instead, general manager Garth Snow did nothing of note which allowed his team to sink into obscurity.
The Islanders defense is allowing a league-worst 35.9 shots per game and has given up 50 or more shots six times this season alone. Since the team’s inception in 1972, only five other teams in the NHL have given up that many shots on that many occasions.
For four of those games, and for much of the season, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss have attempted to keep the Islanders in contention as the team was forced to outscore its opponents thanks to a potent offense.
And while they faced firing squads at times, both Halak and Greiss were unable to put up numbers worthy of being a No. 1 goalie in the NHL:
Jaroslav Halak 2017-18 stats- 18-22-6 record, .908 save percentage, 3.23 goals against average
Thomas Greiss 2017-18 stats- 11-7-2 record, .891 save percentage, 3.84 goals against average
Looking for another option, the Islanders called on Gibson to step in and he’s run with the job.
While it’s only a limited sample size, the 25-year-old has been stellar, posting a 1-0-2 record with a .957 save percentage and 1.90 goals against average.
That included a huge 50-save effort in the Islanders’ 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames, which snapped that eight-game losing streak that just about ended their season.
It’s abundantly clear that Gibson has to be the team’s No. 1 goalie for the rest of the season. He’s been able to excel behind the same dreadful defense that Halak and Greiss had difficulties surviving in.
The last 13 games of the season could very well be a tryout for the starting job next year considering Halak is a free agent while Greiss has struggled so much this year.
New York also has a pair of young goalies in the pipeline in Linus Soderstrom and Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin extended his deal to stay in Russia while Soderstrom will likely make a push to make the NHL roster next season.
But if the Islanders can get solid production from Gibson the rest of the way, this might very well be his job to lose.
He will be in net for Thursday night’s game against the Washington Capitals.