There was plenty of second-guessing on social media over New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz’s decision to start Semyon Varlamov in Game 2 over Ilya Sorokin.
The Islanders dropped the second game of their First Round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, but Varlamov’s rough first 10 minutes were not the reason the Islanders fell 2-1. Sure, the Islanders starter was appearing in his first game since May 10, but it wasn’t as though the Islanders gave him much time to get his sea legs under him.
And when he finally did, Varlamov played exactly the way the Islanders needed him to so that they had a fighting chance.
“Varly played great,” Adam Pelech said Tuesday night after the game. “He’s been great for us all year and we have tons of confidence in him. He played a great game tonight and unfortunately we couldn’t get it done for him.”
The goal Semyon Varlamov surrendered to Bryan Rust 3:22 into the second period and the one that Jeff Carter snuck by him roughly 10 minutes later was not his finest moments. Yet, the veteran netminder looked as though he was under siege in the opening period without any backup.
Once he zoned in, Varlamov shut the door on Pittsburgh.
Varlamov made 26 saves down in the final 40 minutes, which included turning away 16 shots alone in the third. And that’s what anyone watching should take away from the play of Varlamov in Game 2.
There certainly was an element of gamesmanship on Trotz’s part about his starter. Ilya Sorokin was given his own net during the morning skate and Trotz was intentionally vague before anyone could even ask about his starting goaltender.
Welcome to the playoffs.
But make no mistake, if Semyon Varlamov was healthy, as Trotz had indeed said he was, then he was going to get the nod. Regardless of how well Sorokin played the game prior.
“Varlamov has been our number one goalie for all year,” Trotz said. “He’s got seven shutouts. He was outstanding, he set team record and he’s fully healthy. We wouldn’t be maybe in the playoffs if it wasn’t for Varly’s performance this year. That’s, to me, very simple. He was very close to being 100 percent, but we thought let’s make sure he was ready.
“Felt very confident in Sorokin’s ability to come in here and give us a good game, he did. Varly back it up with a really strong game as well.”
— x – Isles on MSG+ Tonight (@IslesMSGN) May 19, 2021
Trotz acknowledged that Varlamov would have wanted that first goal back, but the Islanders bench boss seemed very pleased with the rest of the body of work he had. His comments should also present a pretty clear picture of who will be in the net for Game 3 on Thursday on Long Island.
Trotz has been consistent in his view of who his number one goaltender is. It has always been Varlamov, even as Sorokin’s game has grown leaps and bounds over the course of the regular season.
So it was only right that when he was ready Varlamov was back in the net for the postseason series with Pittsburgh. You can bet there’s a good chance Trotz puts his trust back into Varlamov at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday.