A big reason as to why the New York Islanders are in first place in the Metropolitan Division is because of the goaltending they’ve received from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, who have been the poster boys for the franchise that has exceeded expectations all season.
But a downturn in play that has seen the Islanders lose three of their last five games has suggested that not everything is right for Barry Trotz and Co. Now it looks like the team has suffered another blow as half of its goaltending tandem could be out for a while.
Lehner was forced to leave Tuesday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators late in the third period when he was bowled over by Brady Tkachuk on what became the game-tying goal. Greiss was called on in relief and helped the Islanders squeak by the NHL’s worst team in a shootout.
While the 27-year-old netminder was evaluated for a concussion, the Islanders have yet to provide an update on his availability for the time being. However, they recalled goalie Christopher Gibson from Bridgeport (AHL) which could be a clear sign that Lehner likely won’t be available on Thursday night in the second leg of the team’s home-and-home with the Senators.
The injury looks to be bringing Lehner’s comeback season to a screeching halt. After being given a chance by the Islanders after a harrowing offseason that included a battle with depression and addiction, Lehner had blossomed into one of the best goalies in the NHL. In 38 games this season, he was 20-11-5 with a .928 save percentage and a league-leading 2.16 goals-against average.
Over his past four games, though, Lehner has looked beatable with a .899 save percentage while going 1-2-0. It included a weak effort against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday where he allowed three goals on just 13 shots before he was pulled. It was one of three times he conceded three or more goals during that four-game stretch. He allowed three or more goals just five times since Dec. 18.
Gibson, 26, has appeared in 13 games with the Islanders over the last three seasons, sporting a .901 save percentage and 3.56 goals-against average. Splitting time with Jeremy Smith down in Bridgeport this season, he is 18-9-1 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
He will obviously take a backseat to Greiss, who is experiencing a resurgence of his own in 2019. The 33-year-old has raised his save percentage by 35 points this season — which is now at a .927 clip — while bettering his goals-against average by 1.5 goals down to 2.26.
The Islanders’ immediate schedule is favorable enough to start Greiss every night should Lehner be out for multiple games. Following Thursday’s game in Ottawa, the Islanders are back at the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday for a rematch with the Flyers before hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday and the Montreal Canadiens on Mar. 14.