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Semyon Varlamov Had Little Rust to Shake off in First Start since Playoffs

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New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov

Semyon Varlamov didn’t get the result he had hoped for in his first game back between the pipes for the New York Islanders, but the Russian netminder had a strong performance nonetheless, even if the scoreboard didn’t reflect it.

The Islanders dropped the game 5-2 to the Minnesota Wild in what was Varlamov’s first game since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

The New York Islanders welcomed goaltender Semyon Varlamov back as he made his season debut between the pipes in the second of a back-to-back Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild. Varlamov played his prototypical type of game, which had helped carry New York last season.

For all the talk of rust that Varlamov would need to shake off on Sunday, very little of it showed in the 34 save effort against Minnesota. He stepped up a handful of times, stopping all six shots he faced with his team down a man, as well as shutting the door on a dangerous short-handed opportunity.

After Minnesota claimed the lead in the third, Varlamov was there to keep his team within striking distance with a handful of big-time saves.

“I thought Varly was great,” Matt Martin said. “Varly was Varly. All the talk about him being rusty, I didn’t think he looked all that rusty at all.”

Fatigue Not an Excuse for New York Islanders After Letting Lead Slip Away in Minnesota

It was definitely a start to build off.

As usual, the highlight saves were minimal for Varlamov. His game was and always has been a simple one.  He has constantly relied on solid positioning and his calm demeanor to garner success.

Varlamov was able to slow the game down and not overthink the situations at hand, tracking the puck and, for the most part controlling his rebounds.

“I thought Varly was fine,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “For the most part, I thought he was good.”

The rust, if any, was gone after the opening frame. Varlamov stopped all 14 shots he faced in the first period as he was tested right out of the gate. That allowed Varlamov to get some saves under his belt, as well as some extra confidence.

The 33-year old stopped nine of the 10 high-danger shots he faced in the contest at even strength. Statistically, the other two goals he allowed were classified as low-danger, but that is up for debate.

Only one of the three goals that Semyon Varlamov stopped was saveable on Sunday. A shot from way out did get a piece of Pulock before beating Varlamov high glove-side.

The other two goals, the first of the night coming off a screenshot and the second, a bad bounce off a block, were just Minnesota capitalizing on their opportunities.

Whether it was a fantastic performance or a lackluster one for Varlamov, one game won’t dictate his role for the rest of the season.

Varlamov will need time to get back to full form, and based on his performance Sunday, he was not that far off. With the way that Sorokin has played thus far, the Islanders can work Varlamov back slowly.

There was debate from the Islanders faithful on who should start Sunday’s game, given the role Sorokin played during the seven-game point streak.

Last season, Varlamov was New York’s most valuable player, posting a 2.04 goals-against average with a .929 save percentage and seven shutouts. He started 62.5 percent of the scheduled games in 2020-21 and despite injuring himself in the final regular-season game against the New Jersey Devils, he returned in the second round of the postseason.

Varlamov performed to a 2.56 GAA, with a .922 SV% in 14 post-season contests, allowing just one goal in the Game 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This season so far, Sorokin has shown the ability to handle the workload. While the split between the two Islanders netminders will not be as vast as what we saw a season ago, Varlamov is going to have his chances in between the pipes to play in what will be a grind of an 82-game season.

Trotz is known for riding the hot hand, but turned to Varlamov Sunday night because he understood the importance of getting Varlamov going and re-establishing the tandem for long-term success.

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