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Is it Fair to Put Islanders Latest Struggles on Varlamov’s Shoulders?

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New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov

For a brief period of time this season, the New York Islanders saw both their netminders playing absolute lights out hockey. Ilya Sorokin in year two has shown the ability to be true no. 1 in the NHL, while Semyon Varlamov seemed to be back to his game after a rough start to his 2021-22 season.

But over the last few starts for each of them, a trend from earlier in the year seems to have settled back in as Varlamov’s mistakes or lack of sharpness has made it increasingly harder to pick up points.

Breaking Down Varlamov’s Latest Performances

Over Semyon Varlamov’s last two starts, he has allowed six goals, three in a shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers and three in a regulation loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Out of those six goals, based on the saves Semyon Varlamov has shown an ability to make, four to five should have resulted in saves.

In the 4-3 shootout win, Varlamov stopped all nine Flyers in the shootout, a heroic effort that allowed the Islanders to pick up a critical two points. But the game should not have needed a shootout to serve as the deciding factor.

Twice when the Islanders had leads, Semyon Varlamov allowed goals that should have been stopped.

The first one, a brutal hop off the end boards in the first period found its’ way through his five-hole into the low slot and then back through his legs and into the net.

Again, it was not a favorable hop and a tough save to make. But Varlamov was in the right spot, his stick just wasn’t and if it were, that puck has no way of getting passed him.

In the second period, Varlamov’s underwhelming pass to Robin Salo was intercepted and the Flyers tied the contest up yet again, on a “freebie”, just thirty seconds after the Islanders took a 2-1 lead.

Although the third goal allowed was completely on Semyon Varlamov, more on Zdeno Chara, Varlamov guessed where Claude Giroux was going to shoot rather than react to the shot — and he guessed wrong.

The Islanders battled back to force overtime and Varlamov rebounded accordingly. But again, that game should never have needed more than sixty minutes.

Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Islanders were down 2-1 after the first period. It was not that the Islanders played a weak twenty, but they failed to get key saves in big moments against a dynamic offense.

Out of the two goals, the first one Varlamov allowed to Mitch Marner needed to be stopped. Marner, due to pressure from Noah Dobson, just slid the puck towards Varlamov on a breakaway, but Varlamov’s stick was towards the side of his body and the puck slid through the wickets.

That breakaway chance and goal came while the Islanders were on the power play and there was no excuse for that. But it was a mistake that should have resulted in a face-off to the right of Varlamov, not one at center ice.

But the Islanders did not let that mistake get their heads down. The Islanders tied the game at 1 thanks to a Zach Parise goal with a minute to go in the opening frame.

However with less than a second left in the first, Toronto scored to head to the locker room with a 2-1 lead. Andy Greene was deked out of his skates on a nice move by Pierre Engvall, but Varlamov read the move rather well.

He just failed to track the shot, as it snuck under his left arm and tricked into then et just before the buzzer sounded.

Like we saw against Philadelphia, Varlamov rebounded. He allowed another goal in the second period, but not one that can be blamed on him. He came up with critical saves to keep the Islanders within striking distance but unlike against Philadelphia, the Islanders were unable to come back.

And those two goals in the first period proved costly.

Fair to Compare?

In Varlamov’s last two starts he owns a 1-1-0 record, with an .895 SV% and a 2.93 GAA.

In Sorokin’s last two starts against the Philadelphia Flyers (Jan. 17) and then the Arizona Coyotes (Jan. 21), he has two wins, with a .970 SV% and a 0.50 GAA.

Is it truly fair to compare Semyon Varlamov’s and Ilya Sorokin’s last two starts?

In both situations, Varlamov played on the second of back-to-backs, which showcased a less-rested Islander group in front of him. He faced a Flyers team on their home ice as well as faced Toronto, a top ten offense in the NHL.

Sorokin faced a Flyers’ team at UBS Arena as well as the worst team in the NHL.

Through two starts, Varlamov faced 13 more shots than Sorokin, with 10 more high-danger shots against.

However, Ilya Sorokin has come up with the big saves when called upon.

His goals-saved above average (GSAA) is at a 2.05 over the last two contests, with Semyon Varlamov’s GSAA in the negatives, at -2.05. Sorokin has not allowed a high-danger goal on the 10 that has come his way over his last two starts, while Varlamov has allowed five.

Right now the Islanders need their goaltenders to make those extra saves if they want to give themselves any sort of chance to make the postseason. Sorokin has done that early and often, while Varlamov failed to at critical points.

 

 

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