As Thursday night’s game rolled on, it looked like I would be doing more work writing this article than Ilya Sorokin had to do in the game against the New Jersey Devils. But the hockey gods had other ideas. After facing just 10 shots through two periods of play, Sorokin finished the game, stopping 19 of 22 as he picked up his fifth straight victory.
Sorokin stopped two of the five high-danger chances he faced.
In the opening frame, Sorokin only saw six shots come his way. While the number was minimal, these shots were not of the easy variety as the majority of them had to be fought off. But his aggressiveness allowed these tough shots to hit him high, whether it was the chest or the shoulder. With Mat Martin’s opening tally at 3:15 of the first period, the Islanders had now given Sorokin a lead for the fifth straight time. This allowed him to focus on the basics, with every shot not being a must-save like it was earlier in the campaign.
With just over nine minutes to play in the opening period, Sorokin made a backhand save on a soft Jesper Bratt shot from the corner. With Miles Wood crashing the net for the rebound, the rookie netminder made an impressive play, as he perfectly timed the rebound. Depending on how fast a shot comes on goal drastically impacts how quickly the shot comes back off the leg pad. The slower shots allow for more control of the rebound as it is all about a goaltender’s timing that enables him to direct the puck where he wants it to go.
With Miles Wood close to the goal, Sorokin waited just long enough to make sure that the puck went off his right pad parallel to the goal line and into the corner rather than towards Wood.
Ilya Sorokin continued to fight off shots in the middle frame as he picked up four saves on four shots. The Islanders did a strong job of collapsing in front of him and not allowing the Devils forwards to get any real prime chances on net.
However, the third period is where things started to get interesting for Sorokin.
The first goal of the game for the Devils came off a rebound as Janne Kuokkanen flipped the puck over Sorokin and into the back of the net.
Janne gets the boys on the board.
🍏: Zajac pic.twitter.com/iE8qZECRfv
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 12, 2021
Sorokin made an excellent initial stop on the deflected point-shot from P.K. Subban, but the split-second it took him to find the puck was a split-second too long. He tried for the paddle save, the last desperation effort, but to no avail. The takeaway from this goal was his ability to make that first save due to his positioning and quick reflexes.
Forty seconds later, Mikhail Maltsev scored for the Devils, as he just threw a backhand on goal. With Nate Bastian causing a ruckus in front of the goal, Sorokin could not find the shot before it hit off him and went in.
Backhand and in.
🍎: McLeod pic.twitter.com/URNDe6FsLh
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 12, 2021
Ilya Sorokin looked over his right shoulder, and as he went to look over his left, the shot was already on its way in. In the NHL, a netminder must demand respect within his crease. Whether it is using the glove to push Bastian out or slashing at his ankles (Billy Smith style), he needed to help his own cause.
The Devils’ third and final goal of the game came off a brilliant move by sophomore Jack Hughes. Nick Leddy got caught flat-footed, and Hughes was able to go right around him, and Sorokin, for an impressive goal.
It is tough to blame Sorokin on this one, as it was just an elite goal. With the puck in the corner initially, Sorokin was down hugging his post. When the pass made its way to Hughes, Sorokin seemed a second or two late to reading the play. What I would have liked to see him do was push off the post hard to the slot to give himself a fighting chance at getting a piece of the shot.
As this game went from the second into the third period, Sorokin saw a major uptick in his workload. As a goaltender, one of the most important things is getting into a rhythm. With the low number of shots he saw through two periods, it was rather hard for him to do so. That has been the case over his recent stretch, and it has resulted in a few softies.
“Well, I think when you don’t see a lot, every goaltender will tell you it’s a tough game to play,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “You tend to watch the game more than play the game … but Ilya (Sorokin) is fine”.
Sorokin now owns a record of 5-2-1, with a 2.25 GAA and a .906 SV%. Given the back-to-back this weekend against these same Devils, it is likely we will see the 25-year old rookie back in net when the puck drops on Sunday.