Achtung Baby! Thomas Greiss Is For Real


It was an inauspicious start to Saturday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes for Pittsburgh Penguins’ backup goaltender, Thomas Greiss, as Carolina defenseman, Justin Faulk fired a shot over his right shoulder just minutes into the first period.

It seemed as though the Hurricanes were poised to pick up right where they had left off the night before in Pittsburgh where they outplayed the Penguins in just about every facet of the game en route to a 4-2 victory. As it turned out, they did bring it again Saturday night. They were just as physical, just as intense, and just as skilled as they were the night before, but with a very different result.

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This time, the Hurricanes ran into a sea wall by the name of Thomas Greiss. After giving up the early goal, Greiss became impenetrable, stopping Carolina’s next 30 shots, essentially stealing the game for the Penguins. Not until the Hurricanes pulled their goaltender with seconds left, creating a six on four power play, were they able to slip another shot by him.

The quality of Greiss’s performance cannot be overstated, as he was continually challenged with legitimate scoring chances, mostly generated from within the home plate area.

There is a lot to like about the way Greiss handles himself in the crease. Not possessing the same level of athleticism as teammate, Marc-Andre Fleury, Greiss makes up for it with solid fundamentals and acute instincts.  He maintains great leverage by playing on his skates, takes great angles on opponents, and is excellent with his stick.

It is easy to see why Jim Rutherford spoke so highly of him during the off season. The original plan for Greiss was for him to be almost a co-starter with Fleury — 1A and 1B so to speak. For some reason, that concept was abandoned, as Marc-Andre Fleury has gotten the lion’s share of the starts.

The idea would make sense going forward. In his five starts, Thomas Greiss is 3-1-1 with a .927 save percentage. He has experienced essentially the same level of success as Fleury this season. (.924 save percentage) Granted, it is a smaller sample size for Greiss, but as I have written in other articles, any goaltender who plays with Sidney Crosby and company in front of him is going to be very successful.

Quite honestly, I don’t see why the starts couldn’t be split somewhere around 60/40 in favor of Fleury. Even when Billy Smith was winning Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders he was only starting slightly over 40 games per year — and he was a Hall of Fame goaltender. Evenly splitting the starts kept him fresh for the playoffs where he was almost exclusively the starter.

In any case, it is good to know that the Penguins have viable goaltending option in their number two man. As Penguins’ fans know, a spare can come in handy at playoff time.

Nov 29, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Thomas Greiss (1) makes a save against Carolina Hurricanes forward

Victor Rask

(49) at PNC Arena. The Penguins won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports