The Lightning scored 16 seconds into the first period. A minute into the second, they added another. Tampa Bay ended up outshooting the Red Wings 42 to 23. But the game came down to the wire, and ended in only a one goal victory for the Lightning. How did the Wings keep such an uneven game so close?
Greiss and Bernier: A Fantastic Duo
Jonathan Bernier has been amazing nearly all season. He currently posses a save percentage of .914 and leads Detroit in wins, with nine. Especially early in the season, it seemed like the Red Wings could compete in any game if Bernier was in net. In fact, the rest of the league started to notice as well, as Bernier became a hot commodity on the trade market. Ultimately, he remained a Red Wing, and although he’s slated to be a free agent this year, there is a good chance Steve Yzerman will ink a new contract for the goalie.
Thomas Greiss had a very different trajectory this year. For two months early in the season (January 13th to March 13th), Greiss was one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL. His save percentage was the second worst, sitting at .883 in that stretch. Greiss also notched only one victory in that time, with only one win to 11 losses (Although one could argue that goal support was the main reason for such lowly stats).
However, Greiss has done a complete 180. In the month of April, his save percentage was .947 – 2nd best in the league among goaltenders with more than 5 starts. He had only one regulation loss in that time.
Keeping the Red Wings Competitive
If they keep it up, the Greiss/Bernier duo can help bridge the Red Wings from a bottom feeder to a competitive team. Sunday’s loss against the Lightning was a perfect example of it.
It may sound obvious, but games are always closer with fantastic goaltender. It can give the rest of the team a boost of confidence, allowing more risks to be taken on the offensive zone. This was illustrated perfectly in Sunday’s loss to Tampa. Filip Zadina was the scorer for Detroit in that loss, finding the back of the net after a fantastic save by Bernier. In a game where the Red Wings were outshout by 20, fans were able to walk away with some positives.
Next year, the Wing’s roster will likely have a significant influx of youth. Moritz Seider leads the movement, with players like Jonatan Berggren and Lucas Raymond not far behind. Players like Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom and Joe Veleno have already made their entrances to the main roster, and there have been plenty of mistakes between the three (Although Veleno has made surprisingly few in his first few NHL games).
But when the a team has confidence in the net, rookie mistakes become less significant. A Cholowski turnover is not the end of the world when you have a fantastic starter in the crease.
If Greiss and Bernier can match their current play next year, player development might just happen a bit quicker than the staff (Or even the fans) expect.