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New York Islanders Ilya Sorokin Hits Milestone, Evaluation Time

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New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin

It seems like all the New York Islanders have done this season is hit milestones. Well, we can add another one to the list, as goaltender Ilya Sorokin won his 30th career NHL game on Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks, with a shutout to go along with it. His 30th win and eighth career shutout have come in just 57 NHL games.

Ilya Sorokin has started 35 of the Islanders 49 games this season and has posted a .923 SV%, with a 2.37 GAA, and five shutouts. His five shutouts puts him second in the NHL, trailing only Calgary Flames netminder Jacob Markstrom who has eight.

After Sorokin started to come out of his shell during his rookie season, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said that 100 games in the NHL was a good sample size when evaluating goaltenders. Sorokin has only played in 57 career games, but the consensus is rather clear.

Although his statistics have not been to the level we saw back in 2020-21, backed by the team in front of him taking a step back, Sorokin has proven that he is capable of being not only a no. 1 nemtinder in the NHL but a dominant one at that.

Sorokin’s Strengths

At 6’3, 195 lbs, Sorokin does not always appear big in goal. However, when he slides laterally in his crease, from post to post, he stays compact which allows him to seal up the bottom of the net, but also be in a position to stop elevated shots. There are a lot of goaltenders at the NHL level who tend to stay low or dive at pucks on their stomachs. What usually happens in those cases is that the top of the net is exposed, and even if the goaltender is able to stop the shot, the rebound is uncontrollable.

Here’s an example of Sorokin staying compact and making a save because of it.

Another thing Sorokin does, which is a strength and a weakness, is that he anticipates rather quickly. Backed by his strong lateral movement, Sorokin’s ability to read what’s going to happen allows him to make difficult saves with ease. It happens often, but the latest example came Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks, as he slid over to stop a wraparound opportunity.

Sorokin’s pad and body were at the opposite post well before the puck made its way there.

Because of Sorokin’s ability, he’s never out of a play. Sorokin is one of the most talented goaltenders in hockey, as his reflexes allow him to make saves goaltenders should have no business making.

And when he is locked in like he was on Sunday night, the only type of shot that was going to beat him was a fluky one.

Sorokin’s Weaknesses

No goaltender is perfect and Ilya Sorokin certainly has his flaws. What’s plagued Sorokin in 2021-22 has been the weaker goals, backed by being off his angle, overthinking rather than reacting.

Anticipation is one of Sorokin’s strongest skills, but it also at times can be his kryptonite. Every goaltender tries to give themselves the best chance at making a save and sometimes, especially in Sorokin’s case, the sharp-angle or short-side shots enter the net. It’s not because Sorokin can’t make those saves, but it’s about him planning for a pass to the slot.

Like mentioned above, those sharper angle shots come at a much higher rate in the NHL than the KHL.

A perfect example of this came Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens. The second goal of the game for Montreal, off the stick of Josh Anderson, gave the Canadiens a 2-1  lead with just over a minute to play in the second period.

A chance that Sorokin should not have to face given the defensive-zone breakdowns but a shot that is stoppable.

Just as the shot is about to come off Anderson’s stick, Sorokin flinched to the slot as he ever-so-slightly cheated the pass. That exposed the short-side and to further back up that claim, Sorokin looked over his left shoulder after the shot went in, rather the right.

We dove into the weaker goals and why a few weeks ago.

When Ilya Sorokin drops down to guard the post, he’s off on his positioning at times. He has struggled with his RVH, a maneuver that stands for Reverse Vertical Horizontal.

When Sorokin hugs the post, his skate blade is what touches the post. Many goaltenders are taught for the lip of the pad to be the part that touches the post, as it removes the hole or gap.

Here’s an example from Thursday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

The lack of strong positioning like this has become a habit that just does not work at the NHL level. These types of sharp-angle goals have happened throughout this season because of that.

Final Thoughts

This season, Sorokin has made starts against 24 teams, 20 teams he has never faced. It takes time to learn the shooting habits of certain teams, certain players, and that job becomes much harder when you are under siege on a nightly basis.

Through 57 games, Ilya Sorokin owns a record of 30-17-10, with a .921 SV% and a 2.29 GAA. He has accumulated a Goals Saved Above Average of 20.48 and the elite netminder has the talent to be a staple for the New York Islanders in goal for many years to come. The weaknesses will turn into strengths the more Sorokin plays, as the sky is truly the limit for the 26-year old.

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