Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said he expected a hero to emerge in Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, but he probably didn’t think it would be his No. 2 goaltender.
Appearing in his first career Game 7, Thomas Greiss stopped all 16 shots he faced as the Islanders clinched a spot in the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-0 victory at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. It was just his second start this postseason after earning the win in Game 4 of the Flyers series on Aug. 30.
Greiss, who earned his 14th career shutout with the win, is the first Islanders goalie since Chico Resch in 1975 to record a shutout in a Game 7.
“Any time a goalie gets a shutout in a Game 7, you have to give it to him,” said defenseman Scott Mayfield, who recorded his first career playoff goal in the win. “He played unbelievable, some big saves and just the way he came in after not playing a couple. There was kind of some talk about who was going to be in net and he got the nod and he ran with it.
“Couldn’t be happier for him. Great teammate, great guy, so really happy for him.”
In his first game action since Game 4 on Aug. 30, Greiss had an early scare, as a redirection from Jakub Voracek went under him and off the post less than a minute into the game. Voracek jump-started another opportunity shortly after with a hard shot that Claude Giroux attempted to tip in before Greiss stopped it.
With just over five minutes left in the second, Greiss came up with a big save on Kevin Hayes before Adam Pelech jumped in front of an Oskar Lindblom shot to keep the Flyers off the board.
Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault opted to pull Carter Hart with 6:55 left in the third period, and Greiss was peppered with a handful of shots. Greiss ended up recording seven of his 16 saves in the final 20 minutes.
Greiss said that he found out Friday night he was getting the starting nod over usual starter Semyon Varlamov, who has accumulated a 9-4 record with a .921 save percentage this postseason.
“I think it was the best defensive game I’ve ever seen the team play,” Greiss said. “It took most of the stuff away and I’m just happy we got the win.”
Trotz prefaced his postgame media press conference with a shoutout to Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom, who made his playoff debut this series after he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in December.
“I just want to say one thing, really inspirational, you see a young man, Oskar Lindblom, who came back,” a choked up Trotz said. “I think that’s exceptional what he did and what he’s fighting. I just wanted to say that. To me, as a father, seeing a young man go through all that, and the support he gets from the Flyers organization, it’s tremendous. I never want to see a young man have to go through that, and he’s done a great job. And also to the Flyers, that’s one hell of a team we had to get through.”
Saturday night’s win was the 29th NHL playoff series victory for Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, moving him one ahead of Bill Torrey on the NHL’s all-time GM list. Lamoriello now only trails Glen Sather’s 41 playoff series victories.
Leo Komarov didn’t take pregame warmups for the Islanders and was scratched for the first time since he entered the lineup for Game 4 in the play-in series against the Florida Panthers. Michael Dal Colle was his replacement on the third line, making his series debut after skating in Game 5 against the Washington Capitals.
Trotz had alluded to a few players being banged up ahead of Game 7, meaning Komarov could’ve been one of them.