BOSTON — One game into the Second Round, is it time for the New York Islanders to make a change in net?
The Islanders, who dropped Game 1 to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday night, saw firsthand what a force Boston was, especially the “perfection line.” Ilya Sorokin made 35 saves on the 39 shots that Boston poured on, including some very key stops early on, but the rookie netminder rebound control wasn’t as sharp on Saturday and it directly led to two of David Pastrnak’s three Game 1 goals.
The four goals on Saturday had been the most Ilya Sorokin had given up during the postseason in five starts.
The Islanders rookie was good in Game 1, but he wasn’t the same as he had been against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the First Round. However, now is the time for the Islanders to make a change in net to swing the momentum of the series back in their favor.
Sure Semyon Varlamov won’t have played since May 20 when the puck drops on Monday for Game 2, but the Islanders have been successful when they’ve used both of their netminders in the playoffs. And, even with Varalmov’s early struggles in the First Round, he is coming off a Vezina Trophy-like regular season.
Varlamov was 19-11-4 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.04 goals-against average in the regular season. He owned an even better record against Boston this season.
The veteran netminder was 5-1-0 against Boston in seven appearances and had a .943 save percentage and a 1.93 goals-against average. Of the three playoff teams in the East Division, Varlamov’s 13 goals against to Boston was the fewest he’d given up against Washington, Pittsburgh or Boston.
By no means was Ilya Sorokin the reason why the Islanders dropped the opening game of the Second Round, but the young goaltender showed a bit of his age during parts of the night. Sorokin was quick to make the initial stops at times, but left some golden rebound opportunities up for grabs. Two of which turned into goals.
Pastrnak’s first goal of the night came off a quick leg save, but the rebound was directed right towards a wide-open Pastrnak. The Islanders need players around him to pick up Pastrnak in that situation, no question, but a rebound that enticing isn’t something the Isles can afford either.
It happened again on Pastrnak’s second goal as well.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 30, 2021
And Sorokin lost track of the puck several times throughout the night. In the second period made a stop but didn’t know where the puck had gone, not realizing it was sitting between his pads until one of his teammates skated over. He was able to cover up for the whistle.
Sorokin nearly did it again in the third period when he lost the puck in his pads and nearly pushed it over the line with the Islanders still only down by one.
Could the Russian rookie shake off the Game 1 performance? Perhaps, but the Islanders have seen the strategy of switching goaltenders during the playoffs work to great success. Just look at last year’s tournament in the bubble when the Islanders rode the hot hand of Varlamov before changing things up Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers and putting in Thomas Greiss.
Greiss stepped up in that game and lifted the Islanders to their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 1993.
Trotz has not been shy about making a change in net when he needs to, especially in the playoffs. Saturday won’t be the last time we see Ilya Sorokin in net during the postseason, but right now a change in net could jumpstart the Islanders the way it did last round and last year.
Goaltending changed the course of the series in round one, and it is sure to be a major storyline in round two, The fact that the Islanders have two goaltenders they have faith in means a lot this time of year and they need to take advantage of that.
Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins how important that is.
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