Thomas Greiss is getting an opportunity to be the New York Islanders' number one goalie, and so far he's running with the chance.
Greiss has been rock solid in his past three games since becoming the number one, stopping 95-of-100 shots (.950 SV%), helping the Islanders get points in three straight (1-0-2), including back-to-back games where the team scored one goal.
"I feel good about my game," Greiss said. "I feel comfortable out there. The guys are playing well in front of me and everyone is working hard. I'm getting some bounces here and there."
Greiss was arguably the Islanders best player last weekend, making big saves including Matt Nieto's penalty shot, Rene Bourque's OT breakaway in Colorado and a crazy sequence of desperation saves in Arizona.
But Greiss' high-end play has been at a high level for a little while now. The Isles goalie is 3-0-2 in his last five games with a .955 SV% (171 saves on 179 shots) and 6-1-2 in his last nine games. On the season, he's 9-5-2 with a 2.31 goals-against average and a career-best .927 SV%.
Video: NYI@ARI: Greiss makes a spectacular series of stops
Greiss played as the Islanders' number one down the stretch and into the playoffs last season after Jaroslav Halak's season-ending injury on March 8, starting 23 of the Islanders' final 29 games (including playoffs). Greiss' best work was in the first round against the Florida Panthers. He posted a .944 SV% in the series, including back-to-back 40-save wins in Games 5 and 6.
That body of work impressed his teammates and instilled the confidence that Greiss can handle a bigger workload.
"He proved to everybody that he wasn't just a backup," Johnny Boychuk said of Greiss. "We knew he could do it before then, when he'd get his chance to go in, he'd play well, so it just reassured us."
Greiss immediately went to play in the World Championships following the season, leading Germany to the quarterfinals. All together, Greiss played 56 games last year, the most hockey he'd played since the 2008-09 season, but didn't stumble with the increased workload. His teammates have long lauded his work ethic and preparation.
Video: NYI@COL: Greiss extends pad to stone Bourque in OT
"I think it's just his compete level that makes him a good goaltender," Boychuk said. "No matter what day, he's going to try his best. He's going to practice hard, but especially in games."
With Halak in Bridgeport, Greiss is getting a chance to build on last season and assert himself as a number one. For a guy who was a career backup, it's the opportunity of a lifetime.
"Everyone wants to be a number one guy," Greiss said. "That's what you work for."