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Reasons Why Islanders’ Sorokin Has Seen A Drop In Play



New York Islanders

In his first season as an NHL starter, netminder Ilya Sorokin could very well be in the Hart Trophy conversation for how he has carried the New York Islanders.

Through 20 appearances (19 starts), Ilya Sorokin sits with the fifth-best goals-against average and save percentage in the NHL, with a  2.36 GAA and a .925 SV%. His two shutouts are tied for second in the league.

On the advanced analytics front, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Sorokin has the third-highest GSAA at 12.26 and, per Evolving Hockey, has the highest Goals Saved Above Expected at 19.8.

Despite the strong stat line, Sorokin has not looked like himself over his four starts. That’s not to say he hasn’t been good, but he hasn’t played to the level we saw earlier in the season and is riding a current four-game losing streak.

Here are his games lines over the last four games courses of Hockey Reference:

Hockey Reference, New York Islanders, Ilya Sorokin

Over these last four games, the 27-year-old netminder owns an .889 SV% with a 3.04 GAA and a negative 1.06 GSAA. He’s allowed 12 goals over that span, 10 of the 12 coming off high-danger shots.

He’s stopped 19 of 29 high-danger chances (.655 HDSV%) over that span.

For comparison, over Sorokin’s first 16 appearances, he recorded a 2.19 GAA with a .933 SV% and a 13.63 GSAA. He posted a HD SV% of .868.

While the goals have not been Sorokin’s fault, he has not been as sharp in goal and has failed to make saves we have become accustomed to seeing him make.

So what’s changed for Ilya Sorokin over his last four contests?

Over his first 16 appearances, he allowed 6.25 rebounds per game, while over the last four, that number is down to 5.5, but despite that stat line, rebound control has not come easy recently.

And it comes down to puck tracking.

Over these last four games, Sorokin has not tracked the puck as well as he did earlier in the season. When a goaltender is late to pick up a shot, there is less reaction time, which means less time to control where the puck goes after the save.

Because of the tracking, we have seen him struggle to continue to bail out the Islanders at the same rate as earlier in the season.

Over the first 16 games, his Goals Saved Above Average was 12.26, the third-highest in the NHL. Over the last four games, his GSAA is a -1.49.

For Sorokin, he is an aggressive netminder who, given his elite anticipation, can make saves most goaltenders have no business making, but the reason his GSAA is much lower right now is that no matter the anticipation if he doesn’t see the puck, he can’t read the play as fast, which again leads to more rebounds and a lack of those big-time, highlight-reel saves.

As much as fans applaud those highlight-reel saves, a goaltender never wants those saves to be needed often because that means they were out of position.

But for a netminder like Sorokin, those elite saves are usually more about bailing out his teammates rather than his own mistakes.

Now, Sorokin’s struggles are more due to the play of the Islanders in front of him. And despite Sorokin’s struggles, he’s given the Islanders a chance to win each game. He just hasn’t been as sharp lately.

Let’s go through a few instances where we can see the tracking issue, which was a significant issue in the 7-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 6.

The game’s first goal came from a Jordan Leivo odd-man rush shot. Leivo, from the right circle shots against the grain, beating Sorokin past the blocker side seven hole. It’s a goal that Sorokin often allowed on the rush last season and over his first few NHL seasons.

You can tell that Sorokin failed to track the shot. Obviously, it’s an odd-man rush, and it’s not Sorokin’s fault, but it’s certainly a save he can make.

Another odd-man rush saw Ivan Barbashev bury off the pass, but if you watch the replay, Will Bitten showed pass the whole way, and Sorokin was late to find the pass.

Sorokin’s fifth goal against was a tough break, as Colton Parayko knuckled a puck from the blue line.

This was just one game, but it was the game where Sorokin struggled the most over this recent stretch.

In his last game, a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, none of the goals against were on him, but from the first shot of the game, one could see that his rebound control was way off, and it was like that for most of the contest.

“I feel good. I want to win. I want to help,” Sorokin said following the 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. “I don’t give up. I believe in my system.”

“When you lose, it feels not good, but tomorrow is new day.”

The New York Islanders now hit the road for five games, which starts Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins, the best team in the NHL. Especially with Adam Pelech out, Ilya Sorokin will need to find his game and help steal some games if the Islanders want to remain in a playoff spot when this road trip is all said and done.


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