3. Ilya Sorokin’s Rebound Control
Sunday was Ilya Sorokin’s second Islanders start, and the first in which he had more than 25 minutes of time to prepare. Which is good, and he looked better because of it.
Overall, I thought Sorokin’s game looked much better, actually, than his previous, last-minute start at Madison Square Garden. He looked more confident, playing further out in his crease, and cutting his angles way better.
So I wouldn’t call it a bad start, so much as I’d call it one with some room for improvement. Jack Hughes’s game-winning power-play goal that beat Sorokin high over the blocker was a perfectly placed shot. The improvement should come in the form of practicing rebound control with goalie coaches Mitch Korn and Piero Greco.
There were some particularly bad rebounds given up by Sorokin. Right out in between the hash marks, just waiting to be put back in the Islanders net. That’s what Pavel Zacha did on the Devils’ second goal. If the Islanders had bothered to score a single goal, Zacha’s tally might’ve been a game-winner.
That aside, Sorokin impressed me at times tonight. His post-to-post push to stuff an early Devils scoring opportunity showed off some great quickness and athleticism. He needs to work on pushing rebounds off to the corners, for sure. But that is a skill that can be taught, especially by the Islanders’ world-class goalie staff.
I know all three of these takeaways are pretty negative in their tone, but I don’t necessarily think tonight is cause to panic too much.
Yes, the Islanders’ losses have been ugly, and offense has been the cause of their woes in each of those two losses. But overall, their game has not looked bad most nights. Their wins against the Rangers and Devils were very strong performances in all phases of the game. The Bruins win was a matchup of two teams that are willing to play low-event hockey and win by a 1-0 score, the Islanders were the team who got it done that night.
I do have to continue wondering when we’ll get to see Oliver Wahlstrom again. It looks likely he’ll make an appearance some time in the next two weeks, and that’s exciting in no small part because of his world-class shot release.
I’ve said it before, and I know this isn’t some hot take, but J.G. Pageau is the best bottom-six forward the Islanders have defensively or offensively. Giving him linemates that can compliment his abilities in the offensive zone seems imperative as the team continues to drop low energy performances with little to no offense.
Finally, I’d like to know what’s the deal with the rest of the Islanders bottom-six? The fourth line has looked pretty pedestrian through five games, without the usual aggressive forechecking by Martin and Cizikas that has come to be a staple of that trio’s identity.
Again, I think all of these things will work themselves out. Barry Trotz is an elite coach that will make sure of that, and this team has seemed to find ways to make it work under him.