The New York Islanders dropped an extra point on Saturday, but made up for it on Sunday. Here are six (total) takeaways from the weekend B2B vs. Pittsburgh.
The New York Islanders dropped an extra point on Saturday in their 4-3 overtime defeat, but Sunday’s effort made up for it, as they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 in the second half of their weekend back-to-back.
Here are three takeaways from each of the weekend’s two games.
1. 2/27: Islanders Burned by Semyon Varlamov’s Bad Start
Thankfully for the New York Islanders, Semyon Varlamov hasn’t had many truly bad starts this season. Varly has three Really Bad Starts in 2020-21, RBS is a stat developed by Rob Vollman to easily quantify a goaltender’s starts with a sub-85% SV%. Varlamov’s .871 SV% from Saturday doesn’t qualify for an RBS, but that, unfortunately, doesn’t mean the start was any good either.
Varlamov’s troubles began in the second period when he fell down in the middle of a 4v5 penalty kill, leaving Sidney Crosby with a wide-open net to shoot at. Only 26 seconds later, Varlamov allowed another soft goal to Kris Letang when he didn’t properly cut off his angle and was beaten by a low, unscreened shot from a distance.
The overtime winner, also scored by Letang, was a save-able shot that caught J.G. Pageau’s stick blade. It fluttered past Varly’s blocker and into the net for a Penguins win with less than half a minute remaining in overtime.
I didn’t comment on the third Penguins goal, because that one was more a matter of miscommunication between Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, leaving Jared McCann wide open in the slot off a Penguins rush.
It’s hard for me to get mad at Varlamov for a poor performance here. He’s been very solid for the Islanders all season, but this loss does rest pretty squarely on his shoulders.
If there is any positive that could come from a poor start like this, perhaps it’s that Barry Trotz begins to turn to Ilya Sorokin more often. Giving Varly more rest in between starts.
Sorokin’s last start prior to Sunday vs. Pittsburgh was on February 16, a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in which he made 20 saves, and a few really spectacular ones.
Varlamov has been very good for the Islanders this season and last, but he’s a couple of months shy of 33-years-old and has a history of knee injuries. He started 184 games for the Colorado Avalanche across three seasons between 2013-14 and 2015-16, but his days of carrying that sort of workload, considering his injury history, should definitely be left behind him.
Hopefully, Sorokin can inspire the sort of confidence needed for Barry Trotz to get him into action more regularly. The 25-year-old’s form has gotten better in every game this season, and the added rest for Varlamov could pay huge dividends heading down the stretch of this 2020-21 season.