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Islanders’ One Important Hire

Robin Lehner, now with the Islanders, is having a great season (Courtesy of Wikimedia).

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Robin Lehner, now with the Islanders, is having a great season (Courtesy of Wikimedia).


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By Chris Hennessy

After losing their captain John Tavares, the New York Islanders were written off by many as potentially the worst team in their division. Yet, the first 14 games of the season have gone well for the Islanders, as they now sit atop the Metropolitan Division. They have been getting secondary scoring from Valtteri Filppula and Brock Nelson, while Josh Bailey and new captain Anders Lee are proving they can produce without Tavares. The new winning culture around the team, instilled by three-time Stanley Cup Champion general manager Lou Lamoriello and Stanley Cup-defending coach Barry Trotz, has certainly helped, but the most important piece of the Islanders’ success this season has been the goaltending.

The Isles gave up the most goals in the National Hockey League last year and did not record a shutout until Feb. 16. The goalies are still not top-of-the-line players, with Thomas Greiss returning and Robin Lehner coming from Buffalo, but their coaching has vastly improved.

Mitch Korn has been an integral part of Trotz’s staff ever since becoming an NHL head coach. After sixteen years as the goaltending coach on Trotz’s staff in Nashville, Korn followed him to Washington, where he helped coach Philipp Grubauer and Braden Holtby to become one of the most dynamic goaltending duos in the league on the way to the 2018 Stanley Cup Championship. Prior to joining Trotz in 1998, Korn was the goalie coach in Buffalo, helping Dominik Hasek win all four of his Vezina Trophies and two Hart Trophies. Korn’s hiring was celebrated by many in the offseason, but even the most optimistic fans could not have predicted this unbelievable start.

Both goalies have already posted shutouts, against San Jose on Oct. 8 for Lehner and over New Jersey on Nov. 3 for Greiss. Lehner was the hotter of the two goalies at the beginning, posting a 4-2-1 record before getting injured against Pittsburgh on Oct. 30. Lehner has since been activated and is expected to make his return any day now.

Korn’s expertise truly shows through the returning goalie Greiss. Greiss has taken over in all the games since the injury and has been a completely different player than the Islanders saw last year. Last season, Greiss made 27 appearances, posting a 3.82 goals against average and a .892 save percentage. Greiss currently ranks in the top three in both goals against average and save percentage (1.98 and .940, respectively). He also saved 96 of the 99 shots he faced in the first two-odd games after Lehner’s injury. Goaltending is a position that has not provided much confidence for the Islanders over the past few seasons, but both Greiss and Lehner have stepped up so far in 2018.

The first fourteen games of the season don’t exactly have the intensity of the games in April, and it is not practical for both Greiss and Lehner to be this good for the entire 82-game season. However, this recent hot stretch has given the fans hope. Without solid goaltending, no team will ever be relevant. The Islanders can have a solid future if they’re solid in goal.

1 Comment

One Response to “Islanders’ One Important Hire”

  1. Kevin Oshinskie on January 31st, 2019 4:43 pm

    This is absolutely true. Mitch Korn is underrated. 2.5 months later and still going strong…

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Islanders’ One Important Hire