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VIDEO REVIEW: A Breakdown of Ilya Sorokin’s NHL Debut

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Ilya Sorokin
Photo Credit: New York Islanders

Playing in your first National Hockey League game is a nerve-racking experience, no matter the position. There is usually some notice well before a rookie makes their debut, but Ilya Sorokin didn’t have that luxury on Saturday night. 

After an unfortunate circumstance during warmups led to New York Islanders starter Semyon Varlamov having to miss the game forcing head coach Barry Trotz to call on the 25-year-old Russian netminder. With no time to mentally prepare, Sorokin was thrown right into the deep end, without being able to get his feet wet first. 

During the two weeks of training camp, Sorokin looked like he had complete confidence in his puck-stopping ability, coming out aggressively to cut off angles, and using his strong lateral movement to deny scoring opportunities.  

But on Saturday, Sorokin did not look like the guy we saw in practice.

After sixty minutes of play, Sorokin allowed five goals on 32 shots, as the Islanders fell 5-0 to the Rangers in an ugly performance. He stopped eight of nine while his team was shorthanded, but regardless he started his NHL career with an .844 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 5.11.

Despite how the outcome may look on the stat sheet, this game was not on Sorokin. 

Following the game, Trotz said that the Islanders “hung Sorokin out to dry.” Captain Anders Lee added that the team needed to play much better in front of Sorokin.

“He deserves much better than that,” Lee said. 

There were some key rookie mistakes on Ilya Sorokin’s part too. He isn’t totally off the hook for some of the pucks that entered the net.

A little over two minutes into the contest, Sorokin was unable to stop his second NHL shot. Although it was an excellent play by the Rangers, this puck was stoppable, and one Sorokin would want back.

As Mika Zibanejad came down Sorokin’s left side, the talented centerman never signaled he planned on shooting. Sorokin misread the play, as he was already down on his knees before Zibanejad passed the puck over to Pavel Buchnevich in the slot. The athletic goalie did what he could to get over, as he pushed off his glove-side post to meet Buchnevich.

Ilya Sorokin moved laterally across his goal-line rather than out towards the top of the crease, as failing to cut off more of an angle before the shot beat him seven-hole, glove side. 

Sorokin should have exploded off his post and attacked the Rangers’ fifth-year winger, to give him less net to look at. Even with misreading the play, Sorokin gave himself a high chance of making the save. He made it over in time for the shot, but failed to track the puck.

If he had read the play correctly he probably would have made the save. 

With under seven minutes to play in the first period, the Rangers got their second goal against Sorokin after Artemi Panarin capitalized on a breakaway.

Even with the result, Ilya Sorokin played this one correctly. As Panarin came in on him, the young goaltender never moved back in his crease and did what he could to make himself look as big as possible. Unfortunately, he just got beat by one of the best shooters the NHL has to offer. 

The third goal to get past Sorokin came roughly six minutes into the middle frame, as Buchnevich beat Sorokin yet again. 

With defenseman Scott Mayfield getting tangled up with the linesman, Buchnevich came down the wing and unleashed an absolute snipe into the top right corner of the net. Sorokin played him as bad as you can play a shooter. 

The replay below gives us a better view of what went wrong. 

If you pause the video at 0:27, you see Sorokin positioned with his right skate on the wrong side of the post, exposing his glove side completely. As you continue watching, you can see that Sorokin continued to move back in his crease, which made matters worse. It was a brilliant shot and may have beaten him either way, but Sorokin gave himself no chance at making the save due to the mistakes.

The remaining two goals against were out of Sorokin’s hands. The fourth one was a beautiful tic-tac-toe play and the fifth coming on the Ranger’s eighth powerplay of the game.

Despite coming out with the loss, Sorokin got an NHL game under his belt. A game like this is part of the development process, and there should be zero cause for concern this early in his NHL career. 

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