How about a cold beer for Thomas Greiss? When Greiss plays in goal, the Blues keep the man busy. Like, really busy. He was the hero of hockey at Enterprise Center Thursday when the weary Blues huffed and puffed their way to the finish line, towed themselves into overtime, and ultimately hung on for a 5-4 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals.
Greiss was the star, and nobody’s backup, in making 47 saves including 18 stops on 19 high-danger shots wristed and blasted at him during the long evening. He earned his $1.25 million season salary in this game alone. Greiss is 36, and isn’t interested in lounging in a hammock.
When Greiss starts in goal, pucks fly at him by the bushel, like golf balls soaring on the driving range. I’m not kidding. He’s a target. But he doesn’t break. He doesn’t wobble. But he does sweat a lot.
This season, at all strengths, Greiss has faced an average of 40.38 shots per 60 minutes. That ranks second-most in the league to CBJ’s Joonas Korpisalop among NHL goaltenders that have clocked at least 250 minutes of action. Greiss also ranks second in most saves per 60 minutes, at 36.03.
Thursday, the Capitals had 70.65 percent of the shots directed at the net at 5-on-5, set off 68 percent of all shots on goal, and cranked 22 high-danger range bullets compared to the Blues’ 12.
Despite the overwhelming volume of pucks aimed at Greiss, the Blues outscored the Caps 3-2 at 5-on-5. The home team let the goalie handle all of the chores in playing to a 4-4 draw in all situations.
According to the metrics, the Capitals should have scored an average of 4.82 goals at all strengths. The Blues had an expected goals-scored share of 1.92.
Greiss was the obstacle.
And the difference. The Blues wouldn’t have salvaged a point — let alone two points — after running out of gas in the third period. The Capitals had approximately 500 shots on goal in the final 20, 25 minutes … or so it seemed.
Greiss for the win.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong knows how to find goaltenders, eh?
You had the Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso duo, with some Charlie Lindgren mixed in. There was Binnington and Jake Allen. Don’t forget the Jake Allen and Carter Hutton goaltending partnership. And the strong two-man tandem of Allen and Brian Elliott. Future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur helped out.
Every now and then a Chad Johnson shows up in goal and is sent away. There have been a couple of bigger-name disappointments in Ryan Miller and Jaroslav Halak. But no one has a perfect record in personnel decisions. By and large you can put Armstrong and his staff and scouts in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan, and they can find a capable goaltender. It’s damn impressive.
Better make it two beers – ice cold – for Greiss.
“The goalie was excellent,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “He had a lot of saves. We gave up way too much.”
In other news, sort of …
— The surging line of Brandon Saad, Ryan O’Reilly and Josh Leivo was at it again Thursday, outdoing the Capitals by controlling 71.4 percent of the shots on goal at 5-on–5 and coming away with a 1-0 edge in goals. During the five-game victory streak, the Blues have scored 60 percent of the goals during the 41 minutes and 36 seconds of ice time patrolled by O’Reilly, Saad and Leivo.
— Since I mentioned Husso earlier in this piece … he’s playing well in his first season with the Detroit Red Wings. In 11 starts Husso has a .912 save percentage overall plus a .921 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average at 5-on-5. Husso also has two shutouts and a record of 6-2-3.
— With their five-game winning streak, The Blues have moved up to No. 21 in the latest set of NHL power rankings issued by The Athletic.
Here’s what the “analyst” and noted Blues troll Dom Luszczyszyn had to say: “As it turns out, the St. Louis Blues are not the worst team of all time, despite losing eight straight games. Shades of last year’s dominant team have shown up over the last week, with the team reeling off five straight wins – two of which were against very strong Vegas and Colorado teams. Not bad at all, and the team is back to even with an 8-8-0 record. I’m still not sold that they’re as good as last year, but the win streak helps the Blues inch closer to where they should be: the playoff bubble. Jordan Kyrou and Ryan O’Reilly returning to form during this stretch has helped get them there.”
Thanks for reading …