Ben Bishop picked up where he left off last season during the Tampa Bay Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup Final with a .950 save percentage in the Lightning's win against the Detroit Red Wings in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While Bishop continues to build his case as one of the NHL's best with another playoff run, Thomas Greiss is just starting his postseason resume with the New York Islanders.
Greiss came in with 28 minutes of playoff experience, but finished the first round with a .944 save percentage, including three overtime victories against the Florida Panthers. Greiss proved his laid-back personality can be playoff pressure proof, overcoming a slow start to the series by giving up four goals in the final three games, including stopping 88 of 90 shots through double overtime in the last two, to answer any pre-series questions about his lack of experience and inability to claim a No. 1 job before the age of 30.
POSITIONING: Greiss and Bishop each play with a little more flow to their game, moving from a narrower stance and using more shuffles on their feet instead of the more rigid push-stop mechanics of many NHL peers. Neither is overaggressive in terms of challenging plays well beyond the top of their crease.
Bishop still challenges beyond the top of his crease in certain situations, like one-man rushes without a pass option, but appears to have retreated slightly this season. He still gets his 6-foot-7 body to the edge of his crease when the puck is at the point but wanders beyond that less frequently. Even slightly more conservative positioning helps Bishop reduce the extra movements that inevitably open up holes in his long frame, and he hasn't backed off far enough that coverage seems to an issue.
Greiss is only slightly more aggressive when it comes to challenging high, but does play closer to the top of his crease and will come past it at times, which can leave him playing catch up a bit on quick side-to-side plays. His hands tend to get left behind when he needs to make big lateral pushes, something that plagued him early against Florida. Greiss also tends to challenge beyond the sides of the blue ice on plays outside the faceoff circles, which can leave him stranded with a lot of lateral space to make up.
Advantage: Because he doesn't leave himself as susceptible wide of the crease, Bishop.
Video: NYI@FLA: Greiss makes two great stops in double OT
BLOCK/REACT THRESHOLD: Greiss is patient on his skates and pushes his body into high shots rather than reaching for them. The downside is this can leave him prone to getting caught moving in the wrong direction on deflections against the grain, or rebounds back the other way, something that cost him on four of 13 goals against Florida, including two on caroms off the back boards to the other side.
Bishop also relies on reacting patiently from his skates, but doesn't shift into shots as regularly. He instead pushes to his knees, which can leave him reaching with his long legs on rebounds in a way that opens up space along the ice, pulling his torso away from shots and limiting his reach with the gloves.
Advantage: Because of his tendency to track into shots rather than pull up and off them, Greiss.
PUCKHANDLING: Bishop neutralizes the opposing forecheck with his aggressive puck-handling and passes well enough to jump start Tampa Bay's transition, as evidenced by three assists in last year's playoffs. Greiss can also be aggressive handling the puck under pressure, but keeps it simpler with smart, simple decisions and doesn't get out to make plays nearly as often as Bishop.
Advantage: Because he does it more and as well as anyone, Bishop.
POST PLAY: Greiss has a variety of post-integration tools to choose from, including an effective, mobile reverse-VH, but plays more sharp-angle situations from his skates. That makes him more mobile off his posts and less predictable in terms of exploitable tendencies. He did a good job managing exposure while transitioning to the ice against Florida by being a little more proactive on dead angle plays.
Bishop defaults to the reverse-VH earlier and stays in it longer, even when the play is along the boards or in the corner. His height allows him to seal the short-side post up to the cross bar, but his long legs force him to lean hard into the post to do so, especially on the blocker side, which creates a slight delay in his ability to get off the post on backdoor plays. It cost him on two goals in Game 4, and almost on a third that would have put Detroit ahead late in that game, but Dylan Larkin hit the inside of the far-side post.
Video: TBL@DET, Gm4: Larkin hits post late in 3rd
Advantage: Because he's less predictable going into, and more mobile coming off, his posts, Greiss.
SCORING TRENDS: Greiss has a lot of flexibility through the hips, which gives him a wide butterfly flare that make him difficult to beat along the ice, making it crucial to elevate pucks in tight. But that wide butterfly also leaves more rebounds back out in play in front of Greiss. In the case of chances from wider angles, shots off the far pad can produce second chances in the middle of the slot, an exposure that is exacerbated by his tendency to get well outside his posts on plays and shots off the wall.
Bishop did a good job staying over his knees on scrambles in tight against the Red Wings, but when they did get him reaching, Detroit was unable to get it over that long outstretched pad, including a great power-play rebound chance in Game 1. Those long legs mean Bishop is never out of play, no matter how poorly he tracks it. But if opponents can't get those chances up into the top of the net, they are better to try along the ice because his reaching and tracking combine to pulls his knees off the ice. They also make it key to stretch him out laterally, something the Red Wings didn't even try to do on multiple breakaways.
Advantage: Because the Lightning offense seems better suited to creating the types of chances that play away from the strengths of Greiss, the slight edge goes to Bishop.