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New York Islanders

Rosner Report: Semyon Varlamov Strong Yet Again Despite Outcome



New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov

After a perfect performance Monday night, Islanders’ starting netminder Semyon Varlamov was back in between the pipes for the third straight game. He faced a familiar foe in the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team he beat last Saturday.

While Pittsburgh would win 4-3 in the shootout, Varlamov put together a strong performance to help his team get a point.

Through sixty minutes, Varlamov stopped 30 of 33 Penguin shots, and then he stopped another two in the overtime period. In the shootout, the veteran netminder stopped Jake Guentzel but was out-waited by Sidney Crosby on the Penguins’ second attempt, the eventual game-winner. In that instance, I would have liked to see a poke check with Crosby so close, but we will leave it at that.

Let’s shift our focus to Semyon Varlamov’s play during regulation.

The Penguins gameplan on Thursday was to take away Varlamov’s eyes, as they parked bodies in front of the net throughout the game.

Early on in the first period, Varlamov did a solid job of tracking pucks through these screens. On more than one occasion, Varlamov never saw the shot, but his aggressive and squared positioning allowed him to deny the shots.

If we think back to his weak performance against the Capitals, he struggled to find pucks through bodies, so it was good to see him do so on Thursday, particularly early on.

After the Islanders got out to a 1-0 lead about six minutes into the game, the Penguins knotted up the score at the 11:47 mark of the opening frame.

With Pittsburgh players in front, Varlamov found the puck at the top of the left circle and slid over to meet Jake Guentzel to his right. Guentzel just made a great hockey play to find Bryan Rust for the tap-in. Nick Leddy and Mat Barzal were both next to Rust, but he gained inside position.

With under five minutes to go in the first, the Penguins found themselves on a shorthanded odd-man rush. Varlamov did a tremendous job to read the cross-crease pass by Mark Jankowski to deny Zach Ashton-Reese backdoor.

As the first period wound down, the Islanders saw themselves with a 2-1 lead. That lead would be safe as the Islanders headed off the rink due to Varlamov. After a quick shot point-blank, Varlamov made the initial save. Mike Matheson was waiting for the rebound, but a strong kick-save with the left arm denied that scoring opportunity.

Varlamov faced 10 shots after twenty.

With just over seven minutes played in the middle frame, the Penguins tied the hockey game. Zach Ashton-Reese would get the goal.

As the puck went behind the Islanders’ net, Varlamov got caught looking the wrong way. Even with this mistake, Varlamov got to his right post quick enough to deny Ashton-Reese’s first attempt.  Reese would pick up the rebound and slide it past Varlamov’s left pad.

The Islanders had three players caught puck watching there. For Varlamov, his job was to make the initial save, and he did just that. His team needed to do a better job there.

As the period went on, Varlamov made a handful of big-time saves through screens. 14 shots would come his way, as he denied 13 in his busiest period of the night.

In the third period, the Islanders played better defensively. If and when there was an odd-man rush against, or a man left open, the Islanders found a way to disrupt the Penguins’ play.

Mathew Barzal had given the Islanders the lead with under seven minutes left in regulation and as time ticked down, it seemed Varlamov and the Islanders were on their way to a 3-2 victory. But in the dying seconds, with the Penguins’ net empty, Evgeni Malkin scored.

Again, Varlamov had to battle the traffic in front. Unfortunately, he looked to his left, as the shot beat him high blocker side with 18 seconds to go in regulation. He was not as aggressive on this shot, nor squared as he was working hard to find the puck prior to the shot.

Leading up the goal, Varlamov tried to push Guentzel out of his way, but to no avail. Varlamov needed to communicate to Pelech that he could not see. Whether that conversation happened or not, the screen was still an issue when the puck left Malkin’s stick.

Looking back at his performance, Varlamov was real good yet again. We saw that same aggressive positioning that brought him success in the win over the Rangers. His rebound control was spot on, as only one time did I feel he could have done a better job. That one “poor” rebound did not end up in the back of his net.

All season long, Varlamov has bailed his team out. Last night, he needed his team to return the favor, but as you can see on the three goals against, they failed to do so.