Wings' Thomas Greiss named NHL's First Star of the Week, capping turnaround season
Detroit — This was another testament to how far goaltender Thomas Greiss has come this season.
After a difficult start to the year where nothing was going seemingly his way, Greiss has completely turned things around to the point where Monday he was named the NHL's First Star of the Week.
Greiss beat out second star Edmonton’s Connor McDavid — who arguably could be a candidate every week — and New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Greiss stopped all 66 shots he faced across 130 minutes of regulation time — and made six saves in shootouts — to earn two shutouts along with a 1-0-1 record this past week.
Greiss hasn’t lost in regulation time in his last eight outings — he’s 5-0-3 — and heads into his next start this weekend in Columbus (likely Friday) with a shutout streak of 136 minutes, 31 seconds.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround, considering Greiss began his Wings career with only one win in his first 11 decisions (1-8-2). Although with a 2.90 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, you could sense he wasn’t getting much goal support from his teammates.
Greiss had been getting a bit more support, until the Wings hit another drought recently. But, to his credit, Greiss continues to play well.
The turnaround has been simple in Greiss’ estimation.
"Just playing better, getting a couple of bounces," Greiss said. "Those bounces weren't going my way at the beginning of the year and now they're going my way."
Twice this season, with Jonathan Bernier out with injuries, Greiss had to take over the bulk of playing time and his play suffered.
It also didn’t help the Wings’ lineup, especially the first extended playing time, was in flux with key players out.
But with Bernier in the rotation and the two veteran goaltenders essentially alternating starts, Greiss, 35, has thrived.
“He (Greiss) was called on to play so much that he got worn out a little bit,” said coach Jeff Blashill, who believes Greiss has played his best with a touch more rest between starts. “(With) a couple days of rest, he’s done a real good job.
“Both guys are in a good spot where their games are at and it gives you a ton of confidence that you’re going to get good goaltending.”
Saturday’s shutout of Tampa was Greiss’ 15th of his career.
It was the third time Greiss has posted consecutive shutouts during his NHL career (also Jan. 16-19, 2017, and Jan. 18-Feb. 1, 2019, both with the New York Islanders) and the first time a Wings goaltender has accomplished the feat since Petr Mrazek (Jan. 14-22, 2018).
In 33 games this season, Greiss is 7-15-8, with a 2.73 GAA and .911 save percentage.
Greiss has one more year left on his contract, at a $3.6 million salary cap hit. Bernier, 32, is an unrestricted free agent this summer after earning $3 million this season (Bernier had a three-year, $9 million contract).
The Wings are likely to extend Bernier before free agency begins, given his performance the last two seasons, his work alongside Greiss and the fact the Wings have nobody in the organization remotely ready to replace Bernier.
Starved for goals
The Wings have scored a grand total of three goals in the last five games, as injuries to forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, Bobby Ryan and Frans Nielsen have really impacted the offense in the waning days of the season.
Sunday, specifically, the Lightning controlled the puck often and kept the Wings bogged down defensively.
“We have to learn to spend more time in their zone," Bernier said. "That’s why lately the shot differential is big. We have to come out of our zone cleaner.
"I feel defensively we’ve improved. We obviously have to find a way to score more goals, that’s the bottom line. It’s going to tough to win every night if you score only one or two."
Throughout the 2020-21 season the NHL is celebrating the efforts of the off-ice personnel from the regions represented by the weekly stars, who made it possible for the season to take place.
Along with Greiss, the NHL recognized Joanne MacDonald, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System regional director of pharmacy.
MacDonald serves as a pharmacy leader within the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, overseeing five hospitals and providing support to more than 100 colleagues across the southeast Michigan region, including hospital and retail pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and clinical dietitians.
Throughout the past year, MacDonald has worked to implement elevated safety standards that have prevented the spread of COVID-19 within clinical care areas. Additionally, MacDonald has assisted in the planning, coordination and deployment of clinics throughout southeast Michigan.