Thomas Greiss was excellent in tonight’s 6-0 Phoenix Coyotes win over the struggling Calgary Flames. The backup to newly-selected Team Canada member Mike Smith, Greiss has played very well in 11 games so far this season.
In a small sample size, he is 6-2-1 with a 1.89 GAA and a .937 save percentage. One cannot ask much more of a backup goalie than that; Greiss’s job goes well beyond simply filling in for Smith during back-to-back games in a crowded schedule. The Coyotes have shown that they are comfortable playing in front of Greiss, which has allowed Smith to rest.
Smith probably won’t see much, if any ice time for Team Canada during the Sochi Olympics this February. If he does though, the Coyotes know that they can count on him to put forth a solid performance should the team need to rest Smith. It is also always great to have some competition for every start so that both goalies are forced to up their game in order to earn every start that they get. That is how a healthy goalie tandem in the NHL is supposed to work.
Greiss was great against the Flames, making the good first save and controlling the rebounds. He also effectively steered the puck into the corner and communicated with his players as to where he was moving it. Greiss has definitely improved his stick-handling skills as well, and is now able to clear a puck form behind his net in a more efficient manner.
Tonight’s game might have seemed to be all about offense, but the momentum was kept intact by Greiss, who made some key stops that prevented the Flames from being able to get any start in this game. He was continually unafraid to cover the puck and benefited from some solid face-off play by his team, who was able to control the draws they won and prevent the Flames from moving the puck when they won the draw.
Greiss did face some good chances tonight, but he was certainly up to the challenge. I would not be opposed to seeing him string together a few starts at some point in the season should Phoenix have some breathing room in the schedule, or some games against weaker opponents.
To me, there is a minimal difference in how the team plays in front of Greiss and Smith. The Coyotes always surprise most analysts by doing much better than their talent on paper. I do not know if anyone can be surprised by the Coyotes anymore. They are almost always picked to miss the playoffs, but find a way to make it anyway.
If there is a surprise on the Coyotes this year, it would be Greiss. Despite some solid play in the past, I did not expect him to play at the level that he has played thus far this season. He has been a pleasant surprise for an efficient team in the Western Conference.