When the New York islanders waived Cory Schneider on Monday it all but indicated that Semyon Varlamov was going to be coming off the IR very soon. That means head coach Barry Trotz has a difficult decision to make in the near future
Does he ride the hot hand of Ilya Sorokin, who was named the NHL’s third star of the week, or does he give the starting role back to Semyon Varlamov?
After six consecutive starts and back-to-back shutouts, the choice should be clear. It’s Sorokin’s net to lose until he gives Trotz a reason to change things up.
The 26-year old netminder has been the biggest reason for the Islanders’ success over their last four contests, in which the Islanders have collected seven of a possible eight points. Through six games this season, Sorokin is 3-2-1, with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
In Ilya Sorokin's last four games, he is 3-0-1, with a .970 SV% and a 1.00 GAA.
With two shutouts.
He has stopped 136 of 140. #isles
— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) October 25, 2021
This past Saturday and Sunday, Sorokin notched back-to-back shutouts, becoming the first-ever Islander netminder to accomplish that feat in two consecutive days. His ability to put his team on his back has been necessary, as the Islanders struggled to find their game consistently.
Sunday’s effort against the Vegas Golden Knights was a prime example of what Sorokin can do in net.
Good Morning!! 🌞 ☕ While you were asleep the @NYIslanders won their hockey game due Ilya Sorokin securing another shutout the DAY after he did it to Arizona. It's a franchise record. Feel free to tell every hockey fan you run into today all about it. pic.twitter.com/8k4xTrSI1R
— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) October 25, 2021
The consistent playing time has made a world of difference for Ilya Sorokin. It has allowed the young netminder to find his rhythm and shake off the first two starts of the season, which the Islanders allowed a combined 11 goals against.
With the way Sorokin finished off the week, starting him on Saturday over Varlamov would be a major confidence booster to an already confident player.
It’s rare that six games into a season, the conversation whether to ride the hot hand or turn back to someone who has been extremely reliable in the past meant so much. However, the Islanders’ elongated road trip has raised the importance of the decision.
The Islanders only play seven games over the next 25 days before they open UBS Arena on Nov. 20 and there is two remaining back-to-backs. They’ll face Nashville (2-4-0), Montreal (1-5-0), Winnipeg (2-2-1), Minnesota (4-1-0), New Jersey (3-1-0), Tampa (2-2-1) and Florida (5-0-0) over that stretch.
Even with a handful of games against opponents with worse records, Sorokin should remain in net without surrendering time for Varlamov.
Yes, Varlamov has been a solid soldier for the Islanders during his time on Long Island, but right now with 14 possible points in front of the Islanders Sorokin is the best person to guard the net through that stretch.
The Islanders are viewed as a team with one of the best goaltending duos in the league, so if Sorokin’s play starts to falter they have someone to step in and pick up the slack with Varlamov.
There is no question he was a big reason for the Islanders’ success last year, with Sorokin standing by for support. Right now it’s Sorokin’s time to shine.
Ilya Sorokin has been playing at a level similar to how he did when he put the Islanders on his back and carried them to a first-round series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins a couple of months ago.
The Islanders need to take advantage of that play.