It’s been pretty well documented who the New York Islanders owe a large sense of gratitude to in getting them to the postseason. In case it wasn’t as obvious, that would be veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov, who bailed his hockey club out left and right and looked to be a shoo-in for a Vezina nominee.
However, the playoffs are a whole different animal. Varlamov looked a little lost early on but he has been able to turn things around due to the confidence and support from his head coach and teammates regardless of the results. That has allowed him to find his game and now he is on the brink of helping the Islanders reach the semi-finals for the second straight season.
Despite the greatness we saw from Varlamov in Game 6, it was a subpar start to the postseason against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the First Round that opened the door for Ilya Sorokin to get into the net
Then in the Second Round, it was Varlamov that replaced Sorokin and the experienced Russian has been exactly what the Islanders have needed ever since.
Now, he hasn’t played free of mistakes, but Varlamov has been the steady rock between the pipes that New York needed in a tough series with an offensive juggernaut like the Boston Bruins. Part of that has come from the trust that everyone inside the Islanders organization has had in him on a nightly basis.
Even after Varlamov allowed a sharp-angle shot in overtime of Game 3 against Boston, it was all praise from teammates and coaches for his play in that specific game and what his play has meant to the team.
“He’s been outstanding for us all year,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said after that tough Game 3 loss. “He made huge saves for us tonight and kept us in the game. That’s what we need out of him.”
When asked if that was a goal Varlamov could just shake off, Trotz, in a rather relaxed way, was confident he would.
“That’s a shot he’ll want back but he’ll let it go,” the Islanders coach said. “No different than he’s done many times before. Varlamov kept us in the game and gave us a chance to get it tied up and then gave us a chance to win it in overtime.”
In Game 4, Semyon Varlamov was forced to stand tall yet again as he allowed the Islanders to come back from an early deficit before winning 4-1 and tying the series at two games apiece.
We have seen Varlamov play better and better as this series has gone on, and on Monday he was at his best. He stopped 40 of 44 shots in the win, and despite allowing a goal on the third shot he faced, he shook it off.
His play in the first period gave the Islanders a chance. His play in the second period kept the game tied. And it was his resiliency until the buzzer that gave his team the win.
The last big save by Semyon Varlamov to seal the win! pic.twitter.com/lAXYIyxT0V
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) June 8, 2021
It was a fantastic performance.
“Obviously, we needed good goaltending,” said Trotz following the 5-4 victory. “We got that”.
No, the saves were not flashy. They will not crack the top 10 on ESPN, but boy, were they good.
It was all about positioning and anticipation that allowed Varlamov to be successful Monday night. The rebound control was rather strong, and he stood tall against one of the most talented offenses in all of hockey.
Here are a few of his highlights during a busy second period.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) June 8, 2021
“They came at us hard early, and Varly did a good job weathering the storm for us,” said Josh Bailey after the strong start by the Bruins in the first period. Semyon Varlamov denied 10 of 11 in the first in the least number of shots he would face in a period.
He stopped 15 in the second and 18 in the third.
After the conclusion of Monday night’s game, Varlamov has now stopped 145 of the 152 shots he’s faced this series. That is a .954 save percentage.
“Varly made some huge saves,” said Jordan Eberle.
Those big-time saves are nothing new, as all series long, he has come up with those more times than not.
After allowing just one goal on 11 high-danger chances faced (HDC) in Game 5, Varlamov has seen 44 HDC in the Boston series. He has allowed only four of those chances to enter the back of the net.
Varlamov’s job will not get any easier as the Bruins will surely put up a fight in Game 6.
If Varlamov can continue to play as well as he has, the level his team knew would come to the forefront this postseason, the Islanders have a very strong chance to close out this series on Wednesday.