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Islanders: Three takeaways from 3-0 win over Buffalo

Jan 31, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 31, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin #30 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders point-streak is at eight games thanks to a bunch of big saves by Ilya Sorokin, and some timely scoring by Anders Lee and J.G. Pageau.

The New York Islanders point-streak is at eight games thanks to a bunch of big saves by Ilya Sorokin, and some timely scoring by Anders Lee and J.G. Pageau. The final in Buffalo on Tuesday night was 3-0 Isles, but it could’ve easily been a different story with some of the chances Buffalo got.

Here are three takeaways from the Islanders’ fourth shutout of the season.

1. Sorokin was the best New York Islanders player

Ilya Sorokin came to North America this past summer as one of the top-two goalie prospects in the world. The hype that followed behind him was seismic in scale, and Islanders fans the world over rejoiced in the knowledge he’d signed to play here with the team who drafted him way back in 2014. The Islanders had gotten their white whale.

But, as hype trains go, Sorokin’s ride has been unpredictable. There was always bound to be the moment in which fans who had deified the Russian netminder would feel shortchanged due to the near-mythic levels of hype built up around Sorokin.

That moment has played out over the last few weeks following a poor start (@NYR), a mediocre start (@NJD), and a decent start (@PHI) by Sorokin. A small yet vocal minority of the most-cynical (or fickle, you decide which) Islanders fans have already begun shouting about Sorokin being an overrated, overhyped bust of a goalie.

I don’t want to say that one start erases all the problems we saw from Sorokin in his previous starts, because that’s simply not true. But, if there was ever a performance to shut that naysaying crowd down for a little while, this was the one.

Sorokin, as stated in the header before I began waxing lyrical, was the Islanders best player tonight. Simply put, I find it hard to believe the Islanders win this game tonight with anything short of a stellar goaltending performance, which Sorokin turned in.

The Buffalo Sabres only registered 20 SOG tonight, that is true. But don’t be fooled, that was no routine 20-save shutout. Sorokin made a number of highlight-reel saves to keep that zero on the board, and even those saves of a less spectacular, more ordinary variety were executed pretty flawlessly.

Sorokin wasn’t deep in his crease, he was challenging shooters at the top of it. His rebounds weren’t being kicked into dangerous areas where Buffalo shooters could easily get ahold of them and put them back. His glove hand, which flubbed a couple of pretty routine NHL saves earlier this season, was an absolute thing of beauty on Tuesday.

The athleticism I, and others, have been raving about was still on full display. But the fundamentals appeared to have taken a big step forward in Sorokin’s two-plus-week absence from the crease.

I was very impressed with Sorokin in net tonight. He didn’t look nervous. There was no apparent rust, despite a long lay-off that was exacerbated by postponed games at Buffalo during the first week of February. His first pushes to get across his crease were short and powerful, yet controlled enough not to slide out of position. His glove – man, his glove.

Ilya, bravo, sir. We’ll take more of those.

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