New York Islanders rookie netminder Ilya Sorokin came into the game on Thursday having posted back-to-back shutouts his last two times out. Despite seeing that shutout streak come to an end last night after 143:08 minutes, the rookie netminder put together another strong performance in the 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Sorokin only faced 18 shots on the night, which included six in the first, five in the second and seven in the third. He saw five high-danger chances throughout the contest, with two of them entering the back of the net.
Sorokin is 3-2-1 this season, with a .909 SV % and a 2.16 GAA. But over his last three starts, the 25-year old netminder has posted a 3-0-0 record, with a .967 SV% and a GAA of 0.67.
The Sabres, who had been shutout over their last two games, were looking to shoot when applicable (which was not often). The majority of the Sabres’ six shots in the opening frame came from inside the right circle, but Sorokin played his angles to perfection.
The one downside to shots from that angle is that rebounds could become a problem depending on the speed at which they leave the stick. But Sorokin did a nice job controlling the rebounds and the defense helped him by clearing the front of the net.
However, in the second period, one of those rebounds saw a puck enter the net, which snapped his shutout streak. Taylor Hall scored his second of the season, but it was the hard shot off Cody Eakin’s stick from inside the left circle that made the play.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 5, 2021
Sorokin was at the top of his paint, a little off to his right. But a hard shot like that far pad will always create a rebound such as that. When a goaltender is aggressive, there is really no other place for that puck can go. Adam Pelech needed to do a better job at picking up Hall there.
Earlier in the frame, with a little over 14 minutes to play in the second period, Sorokin made a fantastic blocker save on Rasmus Ristolainen to keep the Islanders slim one-goal lead intact. He was towards the top of his crease and tracked the puck well as he stretched out just enough of it with the blocker.
The Sabres picked up their second goal of the game at 11:15 of the third period. With the extra man due to a delayed penalty, the Buffalo Sabres were able to set up in the Islanders’ zone. From inside the left circle, Jack Eichel took a hard wrist shot which Sorokin stopped with his shoulder. But the rebound landed to his left, where defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen stuffed it in.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 5, 2021
Sorokin had to fight through a Pulock screen on the initial shot. I would have liked to see him come out a little farther than he was, but I do not believe he was truly ready for Eichel to release the puck there, especially that quickly. One of the more challenging saves to control is off the shoulder as is it is more of a stun shot, catching the goalie by surprise.
What we saw from Sorokin is what we have seen over his recent starts. The growth we have seen from him cutting off angles has been phenomenal. He did not overplay any Buffalo shots on Thursday and the two rebound goals were unfortunate, but to me, not worrisome at all.
The more important part was that none of the sharp-angle shots went directly into the net.
We are also seeing what happens when Sorokin is given a lead. This was now three games in a row in which the Islanders scored first for him and he has played well enough to preserve those leads.
Over his last three games, Sorokin has faced a combined total of 58 shots, which averages out to 19.33 shots per game. The Islanders have done a great job protecting him more recently, which has allowed him to focus on his game.
Head coach Barry Trotz stated that down the stretch, Sorokin would take some of the load off of starter Semyon Varlamov. Giving Sorokin the start on Thursday should be a major confidence booster, and despite it coming against the worst five-on-five offense in the entire National Hockey League, he got the job done.
Sorokin has undoubtedly had Buffalo’s number this season, as he now has a 2-0 record with a 1.00 GAA with a .947 SV%. With two more games against the Sabres this weekend, I would bet the rookie gets seventh NHL start Sunday.
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