Goalie Thomas Greiss’ stats are abysmal, but here’s why Wings say it’s not all his fault

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
 
| The Detroit News

Detroit — The frustration was evident in the actions of Red Wings goaltender Thomas Greiss on Sunday.

Head hanging, or looking into the ceiling of United Center after allowing a Chicago goal, Greiss had little chance to make saves against the relentless Blackhawks offensive attack.

But the most stark image was Greiss smashing his stick after allowing Chicago’s seventh and final goal, by Farmington Hills native Alex DeBrincat. Greiss slammed the stick once over the crossbar, then another time.

The frustration over the Wings losing, 7-2, and Greiss not able being to stem the bleeding in any way, was painfully evident.

“Guys need to do a better job of picking him up and it starts on the ice,” forward Sam Gagner said after the game. “He’s playing hard for us. He made some big saves early and when you give a team like that odd-man rush chances, they will make you pay.

“It’s not fair to Greisser. We have to do a better job of playing in front of him and limiting their chances.”

The Wings signed Greiss to a two-year contract worth $7.2 million ($3.6-million cap hit per year) in the off-season, expecting Greiss to form a dependable and consistent tandem with Jonathan Bernier.

But to this point, Bernier has continued his stellar goaltending going back to about December 2019, before the pandemic paused the NHL season in March 2020.

Greiss, meanwhile, has had difficulty adjusting to the Wings.

Greiss, 35, has an 1-11-3 record, with a ghastly 3.46 goals-against average and .882 save percentage — both percentages ranking the among the worst of Greiss’ career.

“He actually was good for long stretches of the game (Sunday), and when you give up that many high-quality scoring chances, you give up backdoors, you’re going to sink back in your net a little bit,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He showed signs of frustration but he’ll put it behind him and attack next time he gets to play.”

Blashill believes the Wings’ inability to sort out the Blackhawks’ offensive rushes led to many defensive mistakes, and it affected Greiss.

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“We all have to do our jobs,” Blashill said. “(Greiss) did a good job of playing the first part of the game and then we gave up to many good chances. Is he frustrated because we’re giving up too many good chances? He could be. I would be, too.”

Gagner remarked several times about the Wings’ defensive lapses Sunday — and leaving Greiss defenseless too often.

It was particularly clear in the third period. The Wings were beginning to push offensively to attempt to tie the game, but they left Greiss exposed too often.

“It’s disappointing,” Gagner said. “Greisser has battled real hard for us and we kind of hung him out to dry there at the end. It’s something we need to rectify in here and make sure we’re better. For the most part we’ve been happy with our (team defense) game. We just can’t have lapses like that. We have to make sure we’re finding consistency.”

The struggles Greiss has had this season could be a factor in what the Wings choose to do with Bernier, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Bernier (6-3-0, 2.63 GAA, .918 SVS) has been borderline spectacular playing in front of the last-place Red Wings the last two seasons. With several playoff contenders suddenly looking for goaltending ahead of the playoff push (Pittsburgh, Colorado, Washington), Bernier could be a valuable trade chip.

Red Wings at Blue Jackets

Faceoff: 7 Tuesday, Nationwide Arena, Columbus

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Red Wings (7-14-3) visit the struggling Blue Jackets (8-10-5), who have lost five straight games and seven of their last eight. … Speculation is mounting about whether Columbus coach John Tortorella could be fired. … Recently acquired RW Patrik Laine (eight goals, 13 points) has been a rare bright spot.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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