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Sorokin Steals Show, Is He Still The No. 1 Netminder?

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New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin speaks to the media following the 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers

In most states and provinces, stealing leads to a hefty fine or a good ol’ slap on the wrist. But for New York Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin, the only punishment for stealing games is two points. And despite the strong play of Semyon Varlamov as of late, Sorokin has earned the right to remain the no. 1 netminder for the New York Islanders.

Ilya Sorokin showed his game-changing ability through his first year-plus in the National Hockey League and again in the Islanders’ 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night. Sorokin was sharper than a no. 2 pencil before a state test.

Sorokin stopped 26 of 27 to pick up his 10th win of the season. He proved how valuable he is to the Islanders organization when is locked in.

When you have anyone affiliated with the opposition praising you, that means you are doing something right.

The only puck to get past Sorokin on Monday was a deflection off the shoulder of defenseman Noah Dobson. Sorokin may have been on his way to his fourth shutout of the season if not for that shot.

Early in the second period, Sorokin made a stellar save on a 2 on 0 to keep the game scoreless.

His ability to anticipate the pass to the far post and acrobatically sprawl out, whiling tracking the puck in the process showed Sorokin’s talent and why he is one of the most talented goaltenders in the NHL.

A couple of minutes later, Sorokin denied a slew of short-handed chances during a lackluster Islanders powerplay.

“Really the story was right there,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz on Sorokin’s play during Islanders power play in the second period. ” Ilya Sorokin with a couple of outstanding saves. They score a couple on that and I think our bench deflates…and it didn’t.”

“He (Sorokin) held in there and then we were able to capitalize.”

With the win, Sorokin has now won his last three contests, with a .932 SV% and a 1.63 GAA.

He has stopped 24 of the 27 high-danger shots that have come his way over that span. On the season, he is 10-7-5, with a .927 SV% (7th in NHL) with a 2.35 GAA.

And the type of play Sorokin displayed on Monday is nothing, as he has shown this ability over his short NHL career.

His game-changing ability was on display in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as Sorokin came up large with critical saves in critical moments to take the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This season, Sorokin was tasked with manning the crease for the first nine games while his counterpart Semyon Varlamov was not game-ready due to a nagging injury. Over those nine games, Sorokin recorded three shutouts with a .938 SV% and a 1.99 GAA.

Although apparent by the eye test, that game-changer aspect has a few statistics to go with it. 

Goals-Saved-Above-Average or GSAA for short analyzes how many more saves a goaltender makes based on the league average. Ilya Sorokin ranks seventh in the NHL, with an 11.78 GSAA, and fifth in the NHL with a 9.63 GSAA when playing 5 on 5 hockey. 

Amongst 23 goaltenders that have played 1,000 minutes or more this season, Sorokin ranks fifth with a higher-danger save percentage of .851 and sixth with a high-danger GSAA of 6.17.

Varlamov has a 2.24 GSAA, with a .810 HDSV%, and a HDGSAA of -0.85, but has played more like he had in 2020-21, a Vezina-caliber season, as of late.

Now, having two exceptional goaltenders is not a problem. As we have seen with the Islanders over the last few seasons, having a tandem to rely on has been pivotal in not just making the postseason but going on long runs. 

The Islanders play the second of a back-to-back Tuesday night in Philadelphia, another back-to-back Friday and Saturday, and then one more before the NHL All-Star break. 

That means playing time for Sorokin and Varlamov will more than likely be split in the short term.

The Islanders need as many points as possible to get back into the playoff picture and despite the duo’s dominance of late, Sorokin has deserved to remain the clear-cut no.1 for the New York Islanders.

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