Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss officially won the William M. Jennings Trophy on Saturday night, the award given to the goalies on the team who allowed the fewest goals (196 including shootout winners) during the regular season.
Considering where the Islanders were a year ago, having allowed a league-high 296 goals, it's a remarkable accomplishment. In the last 100 years, only one other team - the 1918-19 Ottawa Senators - have gone from worst to first in goals against in one year. The 100-goal defensive turnaround was a prime catalyst for the Isles' 103-point season and second-place finish in the Metro Division.
Video: NYI@WSH: Lehner propels Isles to victory with shutout
Lehner and Greiss will get their names engraved on the trophy, the first Islanders since Billy Smith and Roland Melanson won the trophy in 1982-83. Lehner sealed the deal with his sixth shutout of the year on Saturday, which doubled as the Isles' 11th of the season, a club record and testament to both goalies and the team in front of them.
"It's pretty special, but it's not just me and Thomas, I see this as a team award," Lehner said. "Just the way we fought all year. Everyone buying into our game plan and our defense, blocking shots. It's been a collective effort from the whole team and it's pretty special."
"It's a whole team award, I think the whole team can be proud of it," Greiss said before the game. "It's an accomplishment for the whole team."
Video: Greiss steady in net for Isles
Greiss was 23-14-2 with a 2.28 GAA, a .927 SV% and a career-high five shutouts, while Lehner went 25-13-5 with a 2.13 GAA, .930 SV% and six shutouts. Lehner set career-highs in both wins (25) and shutouts (6) and both goalies finished top-five in GAA and SV% this season.
It was a little poetic for Lehner to put an exclamation point on his bounce-back season with a shutout.
"As everyone knows it was a big change for me," Lehner said, referencing his previous struggles with mental health and addiction. "It's been a long season, but [we have] a hell of a group here and it's helped. We're having fun and I said before, I think I've played good before too, but having this little bit of a different situation obviously I made a lot of changes and got good help. A lot of credit to our goalie coaches too, they've helped me and Greiss a lot too. It's been fun. It's going to be really fun going into the playoffs. It's been a roller coaster year."
Head Coach Barry Trotz praised his team for buying into his defensive philosophy, as he too sees the Jennings as team award.
"It's amazing what you can do when you want to go somewhere together," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "One of the statements I said at the start of the year was if you want to go somewhere quick, go by yourself. If you want to go somewhere far, you have to go as a group. They decided to go as a group so far."