Detroit Red Wings: Forecasting the 2020-21 goaltending tandem

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Detroit Red Wings have their two goalies; the question is, who will be the starter?

For the Detroit Red Wings, training camp is well underway as Red versus White scrimmages have begun. One thing to keep an eye on is the goaltending tandem to see which goalie ends up getting the top spot.

The Red Wings have Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss to be their netminders for the 2020-21 season. These two will form a 1A/1B tandem where Head Coach Jeff Blashill runs a platoon type set-up.

Even in a 1A/1B set-up, there is usually a favored “starter,” and the early expectation has to be that Bernier will be that guy. But this offseason, General Manager (GM) Steve Yzerman brought in a temporary solution with the signing of Greiss.

Before diving into how this year will play out, a quick snapshot at the future has Bernier on the last year of his contract. Greiss signed a two-year deal, so he will be one of the Red Wings netminders for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons at a minimum.

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When it comes to the upcoming 2020-21 season, expect Blashill to lean on Bernier as “the guy” out of the gates. Not to say Greiss will not get starts, but Bernier is going to get more looks and more chances, it would seem.

After all, Bernier was the Red Wings 2019-20 season MVP after managing a 2.95 goals-against average (GAA), and a .907 save percentage (SV%) while having a 15-22-3 record through 46 games played. The Red Wings were horrifically bad in 2019-20, but Bernier kept them from sinking even lower.

Since Jimmy Howard collapsed from the starting role into being unable to stop a beach ball, Bernier stepped up and was able to keep the Red Wings “competitive” if it was not for their defense that made error after error on the backend giving Bernier no support.

But what about this new signing? Can Greiss steal some of the spotlight?

Expect Thomas Greiss to be the Detroit Red Wings “starter” around the halfway point.

The Detroit Red Wings have brought in Thomas Greiss to be part of the goalie tandem. At first glance, Greiss has some decent numbers; but he has also been a part of the New York Islanders who recently have been pretty good.

In 2019-20, Greiss played in 21 games where he had a 16-9-4 record with a 2.74 GAA and a .913 SV% for the Islanders. He has a career GAA of 2.63 and a career SV% of .915 after 11 years, and 282 total NHL games played.

The hope for Greiss is that he can find success with a defense in front of him that is not nearly as skilled as what the Islanders were capable of. Barry Trotz and his defensive-minded systems allowed Greiss to thrive in a similar 1A/1B scenario with Semyon Varlamov.

Now, in Detroit, Greiss is going to look to prove he can be the 1A guy in the tandem and be “the guy” for Blashill to write on the line chart each night. It may take time, but as highlighted above, Greiss should be in the 1A or “starter” role by the halfway point of the year.

It is nothing against Bernier; he is still a skilled goaltender who did incredibly well for the organization in 2019-20, but Greiss is the netminder for next year, and the hope should be to be comfortable suiting him up as the starter for the majority of games by the end of 2020-21.

While fans should expect Bernier for the majority of games at the beginning of the year, this could very well change as the season progresses. Bernier will be eased back into a back-up role as Greiss eases in as the starter-role on a rebuilding team.

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Jeff Blashill will have to play things by ear as the Detroit Red Wings progress through the season. Hopefully, Bernier and Greiss fall into a good 1A/1B pattern early, helping the team be more competitive in 2020-21.