In his last four starts, J-F Berube has struggled, while Jaro Halak has posted a 1.96 goals against average and a .931 save percentage since being demoted to the AHL. Should the Islanders make a change at the backup goalie position? SNY's Brian Erni and Andy Graziano discuss…
J-F Berube is fighting it of late to the tune of a .876 save percentage over his last four starts. Meanwhile, Jaro Halak is playing lights out at Bridgeport. Andy, should the Islanders consider recalling Jaro to be the backup for the stretch run?
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
I wouldn't be a big fan of that move, Brian. The way the relationship between Halak and the Islanders deteriorated over the course of months when Jaro was on the roster, I wouldn't chance bringing that back into the locker room with the team's playoff hopes still very much alive.
Erni: I hear you, but team chemistry is such a chicken-and-egg scenario, isn't it? It seemed like Halak was fine in the locker room when he was helping the Islanders to a 100-point season in 2014-15. And in fairness to him, there wasn't much in the way of good vibes when he was around this team from October to December. I know he was a starter two years ago, and he wouldn't be now, but do you think he might come back to the big club with a fresh outlook, cherishing the opportunity to be back around a winning team?
Graziano: It's hard to say. I have it from several sources that Halak has wanted out since growing tired of the Berube situation as far back as last year, before he was injured last March in a game against the Penguins. Then he rehabbed like a pro, had a lights out World Cup of Hockey tournament, and got annoyed all over again when Snow didn't rectify the situation in the offseason.
His dissatisfaction even carried over to frustration with other players, as he even barked to me about the offense not pulling its weight after a loss prior to him being waived.
Erni: Yikes. So suffice it to say, you think he's just toxic, and putting him around this team right now would put everything they have accomplished over these last two months in jeopardy?
Graziano: That's what I believe at this point, yes. And I'm not taking anything away from Jaro, his career, or anything he's accomplished. I just don't believe he wants to be here. And if I can pick up on that vibe, you can be sure it can be felt in the locker room, too. I really think he's gone down to Bridgeport and been so professional because A) it's the only way he's going to get the money owed to him, and B) he knows it's his best chance to get moved.
Erni: That's interesting. So instead of being motivated to get back to the Islanders and contribute to a playoff run, you think his success in the AHL has been fueled by a desire to get traded?
Graziano: That's what I believe, yes. That said, I have not talked with him since he was sent down, but looking at it objectively, I think that's the case. It's no coincidence that there are teams now suddenly interested in acquiring him for their own playoff run.
Erni: Well, that sure colors my opinion. From a fan perspective, it's hard to see Berube struggle and know they have an in-house option that could probably give them a better chance to win on the ice on any given night. I know the organization likes Berube, but based on how shaky he's been, it's hard not to think that the Isles could benefit from an experienced NHL goaltender to play those games to give Greiss a breather. But from what you're saying, it seems like all the bridges have simply been burned here for Jaro.
Graziano: Unfortunately, I think that's the case. And the whole situation is a dastardly catch-22 for Weight. Greiss is the clear number one, and needs to be in net as much as possible down the stretch. But when you are giving him a rest, you are forced to insert a guy who has played one game in the last seven-to-10 days. Let's look at it this way, if Halak was recalled, and he can be without any conditions, as re-entry waivers were eliminated in the 2013 CBA, would it be any different for him? Would the starts be 50-50, essentially relegating Greiss? That's a tough call.
Erni: And of course, this is all rendered moot if Berube starts to pick up his game, which we have seen some flashes of, both against the Kings back in January (win, 34 saves) and last week against Colorado (win, 26 saves). In fact, he's won three of his last five appearances.
Graziano: Berube is a good goaltender, who I think is just suffering right now from lack of work. I think he'll come around.
Erni: Well, with the Isles facing 12 games over the course of the next 24 nights (which includes two back-to-backs), they'll need Berube to find another gear. Hopefully, with Halak seemingly not an option, he can rise to the occasion.