SAN JOSE- Backup goaltenders have a tough time getting the credit they deserve but if you are a fan of the San Jose Sharks, you should be very appreciative of backup netminder Thomas Greiss. The soon to be 27-year-old earned his first career shutout Saturday against Colorado.
So while we will all continue to praise Patrick Marleau for yet another two-goal performance in the 4-0 victory, we also mustn’t forget about Greiss. While the goalie wasn’t overly busy, he did make a handful of difficult saves amongst the 24 shots thrown his way.
The German born netminder was calm, cool, and collected as he battled screens, deflections, and traffic while keeping the Avalanche off the score-sheet. Of all the players deserving of a “steady-eddie” nick-name on the Sharks roster, you could make a strong case Thomas Greiss is at the top of the list.
Unfortunately, Greiss hasn’t gotten the proper accolades for being a quality NHL goaltender. Saturday was his 28th career start in the league and he has yet to be pulled from a single one of those games. That’s right, not once.
Call it a small sample size if you want, but how many other teams can say they employ a “backup” netminder (with that many starts) who has yet to be yanked from a game?
Greiss is a goalie that has (for whatever reason) not impressed many around the NHL by the little credit he has received for his strong play. Despite being a strong backup to Evgeni Nabokov in 2009-10, the Sharks brought in Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki as free agents the following offseason. Those moves pushed Greiss to be loaned to Sweden for the 2010-11 campaign.
He could have whined, he could have pouted and sought other opportunities but he grinded it out and now he’s back in the NHL where he belongs. One thing is for certain, his Sharks teammates sure seem to like having him around.
“Every time he goes in for us he’s always played real, real well” commented Sharks captain Joe Thornton. “The guys, they like playing in front of him. He’s a real likeable guy, he’s a fun guy to be around. The third period he looked real, real good. He made some big saves, one off the post but other than that he looked great tonight.”
As Thornton mentioned, every time Greiss has gotten the call, he‘s delivered. You don’t get nearly 30 NHL starts as a backup (without being pulled) if you didn’t belong at this level. And Greiss’ statistics back that up. In 11 starts during the 2009-10 campaign Greiss finished with a .926 save percentage. Not to mention last season his save percentage in games where he played 58 minutes or more (14 starts, one game in relief) was .918.
In other words, when it comes to starting NHL hockey games between the pipes, Greiss has been nothing short of excellent. And because of his superb play, the Sharks ought to feel confident having two guys who can get the job done.
“It’s great [having two good guys in net], Greisser played great tonight” added Marleau. “It was a little similar to our first game against Calgary where our goalie held us in there early on. He played really well.”
Greiss will be a free agent after this season and if he proves for a third full campaign of backup duties that he can put up good numbers, he may find himself a starting opportunity somewhere in this league. He’s yet to have a truly below-average performance in his short career.