There is no question that the performance of New York Islanders rookie netminder Ilya Sorokin last night in the 6-3 loss to the Washington Capitals was anything but stellar. Not all of the six goals that beat him were his fault, but his lackluster play drastically impacted the scoreboard in the wrong direction.
The 25-year old Russian came into this game with an impeccable 8-0-0 record at Nassau Coliseum this season with a .928 SV% and a 1.71 GAA. He had yet to face the Capitals in his first season thus far and in a critical game standings-wise for the Islanders, he was not at his best. He allowed six goals on 30 shots and while the Islanders did not play their best game in front of him, the Capitals expected goals for (xGF) in this game was a 2.17. That should tell you a lot statically about the way Sorokin played.
The main issue throughout the game was Sorokin’s angles and awareness. The first goal off the stick of Garrett Hathaway caught Sorokin by surprise, as he got beat right under his pad.
Hathin' a good Saturday night so far 😏 pic.twitter.com/RhaalKg0bv
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 24, 2021
Sorokin got caught watching the eyes of Hathaway instead of the puck. Besides misreading the play, Sorokin was a tad off his angle and it made all the difference.
If he had been squared to the shooter, the puck more than likely hits his stick and it becomes a routine save. This was the first shot of the game for the Capitals, and surely not the way anyone in orange and blue wanted to start things.
The third goal that beat Sorokin was a tough one with traffic in front, but one that was still saveable.
Both podcast bros now on the board! pic.twitter.com/zqD9neLsXg
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 25, 2021
While the goal was a perfect shot by Nick Dowd, Sorokin gave himself a very low chance of making the save. The rookie did not read the situation correctly as he knew there was traffic in front of him, which should have forced him to come out and be aggressive.
But he stayed back in his crease, dropping down into butterfly no less, which gave Dowd a glorious opening.
The fourth goal Sorokin allowed was the icing on the cake for his performance. Evgeny Kuznetsov from the right circle beat Sorokin under the arm to put this game out of reach for the Islanders. Another goal in which Sorokin failed to position himself correctly for the shot.
𝙛𝙡𝙖𝙬𝙡𝙚𝙨𝙨 goal pic.twitter.com/Asi3fvssuU
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 25, 2021
Although Sorokin was screened a bit by Andy Greene, he positioned himself with the skate of Kuznetsov rather than the stick blade. That is the reason he was beaten.
It was the little things in Sorokin’s game that led to the weak performance, and the things that Sorokin must learn from if he’s going to continue to succeed in this league. The rookie goaltender has certainly shown that he can make the adjustments after a bad start,
With only eight games left in the season, the Islanders are looking to finish as high in the division as possible. Sorokin’s partner, Semyon Varlamov has been stellar in his last five games and looks to be getting back into peak form before the playoffs begin.
Sorokin has been good his rookie season, but the time was yesterday to make a statement. Sorokin has played well against the teams in the division that will not be participating in the postseason, which is great, but helping the Islanders to a win over Washington would have gone a long way.
Against the Pittsburgh Penguins Sorokin had struggled, with a .862 SV% and a 2.78 GAA and we saw how he faired on Saturday. Sorokin has played one game against the Boston Bruins this season where he played well, despite picking up the loss.
The problem– one that Islanders head coach Barry Trotz is happy to have — is that Varlamov has dominated the bad teams and has faired better against the current playoff-bound opponents. So despite the majority of the remaining games against teams on the outside looking in, that does not necessarily mean more playing time for Sorokin.
With the Islanders dominating on Nassau Coliseum ice this season (19-2-3) the importance of garnering home-ice advantage in the playoffs is more important than ever. Trotz will have to put the netminder he believes gives the team the best chance to accumulate points each night.
The answer right now is Varlamov, and while it may not be fair to judge Sorokin after what happened on Saturday night, every performance counts more than ever. If a player gets an opportunity he needs to make it count.
Varlamov has made his minutes count all season long.
There is one back-to-back scenario May 3 and May 4 against the Buffalo Sabres, which at the minimum gives Sorokin at least one more start before the season ends. The question becomes did he do enough to earn minutes in the playoffs?