Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

Does the Desert Hold Another Chance for Thomas Greiss?

I keep wanting Thomas Greiss to play better. 

I watched Greiss while he was the backup for the San Jose Sharks. That's a bit of a trick, since he played behind Nabokov and Niemi, both goalies known for wanting to play every game in the season. Greiss was usually found to be sitting on the bench and taking notes on the game, instead of in the crease and stopping pucks.

Watching Greiss play didn't have the same trepidation usually felt by Cubs fans when Carlos Marmol came out to pitch, but you never quite knew what you were going to get. Greiss could absolutely stone the opposition in one game, and the next time he might play just well enough to lose by one goal. With those games, there always seemed to be one goal where he didn't control the rebound, was screened by his own players, or beaten by a funky ricochet.; that was the goal that made the difference in the final score.

I'm going to be interested in what happens when Greiss gets to play more games--Mike Smith may want to play every game, but he's not going to be playing 70 games this season. Sean Burke looks like a good match as a goalie coach for Greiss, and while Greiss doesn't have Smith or Burke's height, he's still a good sized goaltender, and should benefit from Burke's coaching. If Burke can get Greiss' rebound issues under control and hone his puck-handling skills, Greiss might just bloom in the deseert.


More from Sarah McLellan at the Arizona Republic:

The Coyotes were mulling a few potential replacements for backup Jason LaBarbera, but it was goaltending coach Sean Burke who campaigned for Thomas Greiss, and Greiss hasn’t disappointed his new mentor in training camp.

“I’ve been very impressed with how professional he is, just the work ethic he’s had, and also I think he’s going to be a good fit for (Mike Smith) and our team,” Burke said.

The Coyotes suffered a 6-1 loss Monday in Vancouver with Greiss making 28 saves.

The team’s brief two-game road trip concludes tonight in Calgary against the Flames.

In Greiss’ only other preseason appearance, he stopped all 15 shots he faced in Los Angeles Sept. 15. His style isn’t as imposing as Smith’s, who has three inches on Greiss, but the former San Jose backup is still mobile.

“He’s a powerful guy,” Burke said. “He moves very well in there. He’s a little more I’d say standup than Smitty, but he’s very patient in there. He’s got a really good overall game. I think he handles the puck better than I realized, as well.

“At the end of the day, I think the nights he plays I don’t think it’ll be as big as an adjustment without Smitty in there as maybe it’s been in the past.”


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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies

23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.

On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.

I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.

We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.

It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!

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