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Islanders Continue to Let Sorokin Down, Offense Not The Only Issue

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New York Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin (Photo via New York Islanders Twitter)
New York Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin (Photo via New York Islanders Twitter)

New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin is currently leading the Vezina race. In 30 starts this season, 31 appearances, the 27-year-old Russian backstop has 2.29 GAA and a .926 SV%.

But despite masterpiece after masterpiece, Sorokin sits with just 14 wins on the season as the New York Islanders continue to waste his talent due to their lack of offensive production.

Over Sorokin’s last three starts (0-2-1), the Islanders have scored four goals.

Sorokin has stopped 60 of 62 through the first two games of this five-game homestand and has lost both. The first loss was a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday and then a 3-1 (empty net) loss to the Minnesota Wild Thursday.

Against the Stars, the Islanders played pretty sound defense, as Sorokin did not have to make highlight reel saves often to keep the Islanders in the contest.

That was not the case Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild as Sorokin was phenomenal and had to be–and it still wasn’t enough.

The Islanders were careless with the puck, a 23-turnover affair, but through two periods, Sorokin’s brilliance gave the Islanders a chance to steal a win and snap their three-game skid.

But the turnovers eventually ended up being too much. The Wild potted a pair in 1:33 and got the win they deserved, with Sorokin stopping 30 of 32, earning his 14th regulation loss of the season.

It was another game where the Islanders wasted an elite performance by their elite netminder.

“He’s been outstanding for us. So, you know, frustrating,” New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “Certainly, we need to score more. We need to give him some support, and he’s done a great job of keeping the puck out of the net and keeping us in every game.”

Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson was disappointed that they couldn’t close the game out for Sorokin.

“Ilya had a hell of a game. We got to try and find some points in that game with his performance,” Dobson said. “It’s frustrating for sure. I mean, what two goals in the last two games? Two great performances by Ilya. I mean, it’s not good enough. We got to find a way to find the back of the net.”

Even members of the Minnesota Wild spoke highly of Sorokin’s play.

“He was outstanding,” Wild forward Sam Steel said.

“We may lose just because…the goaltending is so good,” Wild head coach Dean Evason said as his team struggled to beat Sorokin through two and a half periods.

As much as the Islanders needed to give Sorokin offensive support Thursday, the one goal they scored early would have been enough if the Islanders played responsible defense in the final twenty.

With how red-hot Sorokin was, shots from the outside were not going to beat him. The Islanders allowed two clean looks from in-tight off two turnovers, and that’s why they went home with no points instead of two.

They needed to play lockdown hockey.

The Islanders had done that on home ice, as they were 8-0-0 when leading after two periods–now 8-1-0.

This season, Sorokin has been given 2.53 goals of support in 30 starts, and he’s had to be elite in mostly every start. Certainly, in the games the Islanders have won with him between the pipes, his play has been the primary reason.

The best example one could give from around the NHL is what we have seen with Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson over the years.

While his stats have declined steadily over the last five seasons, he was at one point one of the most gifted netminders in the NHL. But the continued need for him to play at an elite level every night seemed to take a toll on him, physically and mentally, and now he’s just struggling to be average.

If the Islanders are going to accomplish anything, whether that be getting back into the playoffs or going on a run, Sorokin will need to be at the top of his game.

Like we saw with New York Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin a year ago, being forced to be perfect on a nightly basis can burn you out come playoff time. Shesterkin saved

Unlike the Rangers, the Islanders don’t have the offense to bail Sorokin out and cover for him when he is not on his games like we saw the Rangers did when Shesterkin got off to a slow start in the playoffs.

You could even compare what’s going on to the Henrik Lundqvist days.

The problem that Lane Lambert faces is that despite Semyon Varlamov having a bounce-back season, Sorokin gives the Islanders the best chance to win on a nightly basis, and Sorokin will be the reason the Islanders do make the postseason–if they get in.

But right now, despite Ilya Sorokin’s efforts, the New York Islanders find themselves a point out of the second wild-card spot in the East with a few teams on their tail. If they had played more responsibly defensively all year long and even just Thursday night, they would have jumped the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second spot.

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