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New York Islanders Biggest Surprises Through First 10 Games

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New York Islanders Ilya Sorokin

The New York Islanders are nearing the end of their historic season-opening 13-game road trip. With only three games to go before the Islanders debut on UBS Arena ice, let’s look at the biggest surprises after 10 games.

Sorokin Playing Lights Out

When the season began, starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov was not available due to an undisclosed injury he was rehabbing. That meant Ilya Sorokin would get his first real opportunity to be the mainstay between the pipes on a regular basis. Sorokin had shown in his rookie season that he had all the tools in his arsenal to be successful and showed significant growth as he saw more action.

Even with a season under his belt, filled with some clutch performances, no one could have expected to see Sorokin be as effective as he has been to start the season.

Through nine starts, Sorokin is 5-2-2 with a 1.98 GAA and a .939 SV%. His three shutouts already match his career-high from a season ago, in 12 fewer starts, and could have had more if hadn’t been for a few last-minute goals.

Before Varlamov’s return to the crease in the loss to the Minnesota Wild this past Sunday, Sorokin had been the prime reason New York had collected points in seven consecutive games. Over that point streak, Sorokin’s numbers were eye-popping.

So far this season, the defense in front of Sorokin has been underwhelming, which is uncharacteristic for a team coached by Barry Trotz.

Sorokin has faced the ninth most shots in the entire NHL, at 236 during five-on-five play, but is tied for fourth-fewest goals allowed with 13, among netminders that have played 360 minutes (six games). The Islanders have allowed 63 high-danger shots to come his way (eighth highest, same parameters), but Sorokin has only allowed eight to beat him with a high-danger save percentage of 1.80.

That is tied for the fifth-fewest high-danger goals allowed and 10th highest high-danger save percentage.

Sorokin has been the Islanders’ MVP early this season and, given his play, will more than likely continue to handle the workload moving forward.

Noah Dobson Failing to Take Strides Forward

For the second time in as many years, Noah Dobson has seen his role elevated.

At just 21 years of age, the Islanders are looking for Dobson to solidify himself as a top-four defenseman, but early on he has left a lot to be desired. Dobson has collected three assists this season, playing a career-high 18:19 a night, about a two-minute uptick in play from 2020-21.

He struggled mightily alongside Zdeno Chara, having allowed 21 scoring chances and 10 that were considered high-danger. Three of those chances ended up in the back of the net and while Chara had been more of the problem, Dobson was undoubtedly a part of it.

The ongoing struggle of this defensive line led to an in-game shuffle in Chicago back on Oct. 19, a game in which the New York Islanders picked up their first win of the season. During that game Dobson was reunited with Greene, almost instantly looking more comfortable and confident. Despite the success of that defensive pairing in that game and the seven that have followed, having allowed just one goal, Dobson’s play has been a cause for concern.

Dobson’s decision-making has been questionable, almost as if he does not trust himself, overthinking the simplest of plays. He’s making rookie mistakes in year three, and it comes as a surprise, given his growth last season.

Physically, Dobson has also struggled to use his frame to garner success in his own zone. He has struggled mightily to win puck battles behind his net and has not faired well in moving the opposition out of his netminder’s way.

Kyle Palmieri’s Goal Scoring Woes

Kyle Palmieri that is one of the only forwards left for the New York Islanders who has not scored a goal. Palmieri’s 24 shots on net this season puts him fifth on the Islanders, but his zero goals put him in the company of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Zach Parise, three bottom-six players.

With Jordan Eberle now in Seattle, Palmieri seemed like the shoo-in to play on the top line alongside Anders Lee and Mat Barzal. Given his track record, one could say that he was an upgrade over Eberle and the hope was that a more consistent top line was on the horizon.

Palmieri had shown what he was capable of during the Islanders’ latest postseason run when he scored nine times in 17 games. He was a member of the top line to start the year, but due to a lack of production by the second line, Trotz elected to make a change. He decided to swap Palmieri with Josh Bailey in a move that was questioned but has paid off.

Alongside Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson, the Islanders’ second line has come to life.

However, the second line’s success hasn’t resulted in goals for Palmieri. The good news is that his lack of production is not from a lack of trying.

Palmieri owns a relatively low Individual Expected Goals (iXG) of just 1.73, at even strength through ten games. That ranks fourth amongst Islander forwards. Regarding individual high-danger chances (iHDCF), Palmieri has created seven, which ranks fourth.

Right now, the Isles are getting by despite Palmieri not racking up the goals. But, the New York Islanders need Palmieri to get going to help this offense become more of a force, especially with the defense struggling.

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