DENVER— When the 2022-23 season got underway, New York Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin quickly put himself in the Vezina Trophy conversation. But over his last handful of starts, Sorokin has struggled to bring his A-game. At this point in the season, given the New York Islanders’ injury woes and how close the Metropolitan Division is, this is not the time for his game to falter.
Here’s a quick breakdown of Sorokin’s splits, courtesy of NaturalStatrick.com:
First 16 starts: 2.19 GAA, .933 SV%, 13.63 GSAA, .868 HD SV%
Last 5 starts: 3.46 GAA, .876 SV%, -4.15 GSAA, .703 HD SV%
On the surface, Ilya Sorokin has been burned by being less aggressive in his crease and is not making the jaw-dropping saves we had accustomed to early in the season.
In his last game, a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes, one could say that Sorokin had his worst showing of the season as he allowed five goals on 29 shots, with a few passing him that he should have.
Wanted to point something out on two of the goals #Isles netminder Ilya Sorokin allowed:
He wasn’t aggressive at all, which is usually a confidence thing. Also when you are aggressive, it allows you to cut off angles, which is critical on deflections. pic.twitter.com/MIiLMvOydW
— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) December 17, 2022
Now with his counterpart Semyon Varlamov day-to-day, it’s imperative that Sorokin gets back on track. The good news for the New York Islanders is that Sorokin is too good of a goaltender to continue to struggle.
With Cory Schneider up from Bridgeport, NYI Hockey Now caught up with him following Monday’s morning skate to get his take on Ilya Sorokin’s struggles and what he saw go wrong when he gets into a funk.
How to Snap Out of Funk
Anytime things aren’t going right, we tend to see a dip in confidence. But the best way to get out of a funk is to understand how good of a player you are.
“I think number one, you got to believe in your talent and your ability that you’re here for a reason and that if you have a track record of success, you can do it,” Schneider said. “And I think sometimes when it’s not going well, it seems even worse than when it’s going well.”
“It’s cliche, but the league can humble really quickly, and you can also feel like you’re on top of your game the next night. So it’s about, like I said, just trusting trusting in yourself.”
But trusting yourself is just half the battle.
“Sometimes you can work your way out of it. I always felt that if I was struggling, I just had to work a little bit harder, just push a little bit more, give it that extra maybe five to 10 percent that you’re trying to manage during the season, like ‘hey, I’m in a tough patch here. Like, I have to go 100 percent right now, all the time, in practice [too]. And that usually sort of set me right or got me back.”
“And so again, I don’t know if you’ve seen Ilya at all. He’s had a few bad games, but if you look at his track record, that’s the anomaly, not the rule.”
Schneider’s Chat with Sorokin
Schneider also shared that he spoke with Sorokin Monday morning before New York Islanders held their morning skate and offered some advice.
Here’s what he said to Sorokin: “Hey, it’s a hard game, but it’s not as hard as you think it is when it’s not going well. And it’s not an easy game. It’s not as easy as you think it is when it’s going well. So, it’s somewhere in the middle, but you’re a talented goalie, like you’re one of the best. So just remember that. Don’t forget that.”
Sometimes all you need is someone to instill some confidence in you, which is likely what everyone in the Islanders room, along with the coaching staff, has said to Sorokin as he tries to find his game.
“Like I said, you can tell yourself a lot of crazy things that aren’t true when you’re not feeling good,” Schneider said. “Just like anybody in everyday life, so he’ll be fine, and I’m excited to watch him play tonight.”
Schneider on Aggressiveness in Crease
We see around the NHL that some goaltenders are ultra-aggressive while others tend to sit back in their crease. For most goaltenders, including Sorokin, the aggressive style is critical given how good shooters are and the need to take away as much net as possible.
As mentioned, one of the things Sorokin has been struggling with lately is his lack of aggressiveness, which has something to do with confidence.
“It’s a fine line. If you get too over-aggressive, you can get caught out of your net and can get beat around with passes and plays,” Schneider said. “But I think sometimes as a goalie when you’re not sure, or you’re questioning yourself, your instinct is to retreat, is to sit back, so maybe I give myself more time to find, more time to see it [the puck] and save it, but then all of a sudden you’re a little too deep.”
“Ilya’s always managed his depth really well.”
Schneider continued: “I know when I get to this spot, I can get to where I need to get to from here, and I think the minute you start overcompensating or retreating, you’re kind of out of your rhythm, [struggling to] get to your spots, so I think as long as he just gets to where he’s comfortable and knows where he needs to be. Like I said, it’s trusting yourself at that point, and I know he will.”
Schneider on Deflections, Tips
Because goaltenders are so good in the NHL, we see a ton more traffic in front, with more goals coming via deflections and redirects than we have ever seen. Each goaltender plays them differently, but it’s goals like that that have beaten Sorokin while he’s been farther back in his crease.
The New York Islanders recent call-up gave some insight into how he plays those kinds of situations.
“It’s a read. If there’s clearly somebody in front of you that you’re battling with, you might need to get on top of them and get up out against them to prevent the tip from going in. If they have options off to the side, or lateral plays as they’re coming down on you with a screen, you might have to stay back a bit so you can give yourself a chance.”
But Schneider also said that when things aren’t going right, these are the types of goals that go in.
“I always found that when things weren’t going well, those are the pucks that were going in, those screen shots, those tips…they’re just finding their way in, and then when you’re going great, you might have a thrity-save shutout, but two pucks hit the post, one puck was labeled to go in, but your guy blocked it, one hit their stick, and it’s these little plays that nobody thinks about after the fact, but like when it’s not going well, those are just going in so it’s not that simple.”
“I think Ilya’s IQ is high enough that he knows when he needs to get out on top of screens and when he needs to maybe sit back a little bit so you can look over the top or find it through the traffic.”
Schneider continued: “You can’t overthink that. You just have to work on…and when I say working harder, sometimes when you’re not in a good space, you’re not looking around screens hard enough like you think you are, but then you’re just dropping as opposed to giving that extra percent to make that extra look around the guy see if you can find [the puck] at the last second, so it’s a fine line. And again, we’re talking about percentage points here, but they make the difference at this level between winning and losing, so big I said I’m sure he’ll be fine. He just has to trust himself.”