Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Thursday night, the Islanders continued their inconsistent season, dropping a 6-4 decision to the Wild in St.Paul. After winning three straight by defeating the Bruins, Sabres, and Capitals, New York got the offense they needed but once again failed in the basic concepts of team defense, paired with shoddy goaltending.
Head coach Jack Capuano, who previously had gone to great lengths to avoid speaking about particular players to the media following wins or losses, and who has repeatedly dodged questions about the crease, saying, "I won't comment on the goaltending", took a different approach last night in his postgame comments.
Halak was requested to speak to reporters postgame but declined to make an appearance and explain the shoddy performance that didn't give the Islanders a chance to beat a really good hockey team for the second game in a row -- one coming in riding high on an 11-game winning streak.
It was the third time Halak has been pulled in his last 11 starts and dropped his save percentage to .904 in a league where the average is .915.
I get it. Players at times get upset over their performance, or lack thereof, and can elect not to talk about it. But, given what has transpired since last March between goaltender and organization, and Halak's own comments a couple of weeks ago speaking to the Islanders' offensive woes and giving suggestions on how to fix it, it just goes down as another questionable act.
With Halak due $4.5 million for next season, GM Garth Snow finally had seen enough, placing the goaltender on waivers Friday for the purpose of praying he gets claimed or sending him to Bridgeport of the AHL.
There will be the opinion out there, and rightfully so, that Halak should have acted like a professional and owned up to the loss. It just acts as kindling to reigniting drama the team simply doesn't need and might be ill-equipped to handle.
Since December 1, spanning seven starts, Halak posted above the league minimum save percentage only twice -- a 38-save shutout against Washington and a 36-save effort against the Rangers. Meanwhile, young talent (we think), J.F Berube continued to waste away, getting only the occasional monthly start and mop-up duty. And Thomas Greiss, coming off two spectacular starts in Boston and against the Sabres, had not even dressed the past two games.
In other words, the Islanders goaltending 'problem' has become exactly what most thought it would when Halak was not traded after the World Cup of Hockey and agent Allen Walsh went on a twitter rampage: A circus.
Greiss is headed for the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, 2017, but one has to think they will begin talking contract with him shortly. Greiss, whose outstanding play -- third in league last season with .925 save percentage -- got the Islanders into the second round of the playoffs last spring -- a tournament they are looking more likely to miss this year, is currently carrying a .922 mark and the team seems to play more composed and relaxed in front of him.
This affects Berube more. In order to maintain his restricted free agent status, thereby remaining under Islanders control, Berube has to play 30 games this season. That means he would have to play in 26 of the team's final 47 games for his contract to not convert to unrestricted -- a situation where one would have to think he exercises that right to leave the organization, given how they have treated him these past two seasons.
With Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy struggling mightily defensively, New York is allowing more high-quality scoring chances against but that could certainly be said of when both Halak and Greiss are in net. One is simply playing better and with more confidence than the other but the coaching staff just now hands him the top job on a team carrying a 14-15-6 record into the New Year.
And with the aforementioned situation concerning Berube's contract, Greiss would have to be held to 45 percent of starts, meaning maybe he really isn't the No. 1 in this picture, either.
Things, at the present time anyway, don't look any brighter for next season. Christopher Gibson, Stephon Williams and Eamon McAdam are not ready for prime time and Ilya Sorokin is not flying overseas anytime soon.
Halak, who will undoubtedly be more disgruntled now over the entire situation, is the only keeper signed to be in Brooklyn next year. And there are serious doubts as to his commitment to wanting to be. Greiss also must be questioning his future, especially if he can land a guaranteed starting gig with one of the 29 other teams -- Vancouver, Buffalo, and Calgary coming first to mind.
Things are never dull when it comes to the Islanders. Coming off playoff appearances in three of the past four seasons, this year, unfortunately, looks to be a punt.
Beyond the box: The Islanders were outshot 57-43 (36-28 on goal) by Minnesota Thursday night….John Tavares (-3) has only five shots (four on goal) over his past two games….Leddy and Hamonic were a combined -5 and are now a combined -27 on the season….Alan Quine continued his inspired play, with three shots and an 8-2 mark on faceoffs. His line with Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd now has six goals and seven assists over their last seven games….The Islanders power play is 6-31 in December (19.4%).