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Difference in Goaltending, How The New York Islanders Should Go About It

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New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have had plenty of issues this season, issues with scoring goals, issues with locking down leads, and at times issues with their netminders not coming up with timely saves.

As of late, a combination of three has played a part in the Islanders’ inability to climb the standings.

“In the last two games, unlike both our goalies, (they) have given up a little bit of a weak goal for them and (with) our margin of error usually in a one-goal game, it can be the difference for winning and losing,” Head coach Barry Trotz said following Thursday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings. “They’ve got the toughest job and they bailed us out long.”

“I’m not too concerned because I’ve seen them play over pretty good sample size and they’re a big backbone.”

Over Semyon Varlamov‘s last three starts, he’s been hurt by fluke goals or weaker goals, and the Islanders are 1-2-0, winning the lone game in a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers back on Jan. 18, a game which should not have needed overtime.

With how the tie-breakers in the standings work, regulation and overtime wins hold more value than shootout wins.

In an article last week, I discussed if it was fair to put the recent struggles on Varlamov’s shoulders. And although at the time the answer was no, the Islanders needed bigger saves from their veteran netminder.

That was before the latest game against the Kings, a loss by no means that was Varlamov’s fault, but a game where his mistake had a binding effect.

His counterpart Ilya Sorokin gave up a weak goal to Claude Giroux and the Flyers on Jan. 24, was one of the weaker goals he has given up in his short NHL career.

“He’s been in the league a little bit now, but he’s been a pro being in the KHL, and what have you,” Trotz said following that contest. “And I’m sure that’s not the first goal that went in that way. He’s mentally really strong as a goaltender I didn’t really have any issues. He’s played very, very well. And I think he can handle a little adversity that hits.”

“We have a lot of trust in him. I think he’s the perfect goaltender.”

And that has been the difference between Varlamov and Sorokin. One has been able to shake off mistakes and make critical saves, while the other has not.

In all situations this season, Sorokin has out-performed Varlamov statistically, with a better save percentage, goals-against average, with the most critical difference having come in the Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) department.

When the Islanders have been tied with their opponents this season, Sorokin has a GSAA of 3.70. On the other hand, Varlamov has a -3.70 GSAA.

When the Islanders have been up a goal in games, Sorokin’s 3.35 GSAA triumphs over Varlamov’s -3.35 GSAA.

Now, the numbers have been much closer when the Islanders have been down by just a goal, with Sorokin at a 0.84 GSAA and Varlamov at a -0.84 GSAA.

Over the last three starts for each of them, the Islanders are undefeated with Sorokin in goal and have just one win with Varlamov in net.

Different opponents, with the start schedule having favored Sorokin by a lot given the competitive level of his opponents.

The Islanders have outscored their opponents 11-4 over Sorokin’s last three starts but have been outscored 9-7, and yes, goaltending has played a part in those numbers.

Right now and until the end of the season, the New York Islanders need to beat as many teams as possible, including the good teams, to give themselves a chance at making something of this season.

Sorokin, this whole season, has found ways to get the wins, and if not, has allowed the Islanders more of a chance than Varlamov has.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has to handle 11 more back-to-backs until the regular season comes to a close, which means that 22 of the remaining 46 games will likely see both Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin get an equal amount of starts, 11 each.

With the remaining 24 games, there is a rest day, at least one, between each game day. And who knows what happens by the trade deadline if Varlamov is still on the island following some reports.

If the Islanders are in a playoff spot by Mar. 21, deadline day, I can’t see Varlamov being dealt, no matter if he is the clear backup by then.

Trotz likes to ride the hot hand, as we have seen over the last few seasons, but continuing to go back to the cold hand every other start has been costly, and unless Varlamov snaps out of it, could be a major liability for the team.

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