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Islanders: Three Takeaways from Dominating 5-2 Victory over Sabres

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders skates against the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on February 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders skates against the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on February 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30). Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

3. Thoughts on Ilya Sorokin’s Performance

I don’t know about all of you, but when I heard Ilya Sorokin was starting on Thursday I definitely got an extra shot of energy for the game. There’s just something about hearing that Sorokin is starting that instantly adds a new layer of intrigue to the game.

Obviously, there’s the fact that we waited all this time for Sorokin to make the jump to North America that makes his each and every move so fascinating right now. But, it’s also about the fact that we’re watching him grow into the North American game before our eyes with every successive start.

Player development is not a linear process. Scouts, draft experts, pundits, and analytics nerds, they’ll all repeat that phrase to you. That’s because it is true. Progress isn’t linear. There is no pattern, one size fits all solution, or set-in-stone playbook when it comes to adjusting a player to the top level of professional ice hockey in the world.

Let me just say that I didn’t think Sorokin was bad on Thursday night. I thought he was fine. He wasn’t worked a whole lot, and sometimes those nights can be really hard on goalies because they don’t get to settle into a rhythm. In the end, he only made 16 saves for the whole night because the Islanders played very well in front of him.

That second-period rebound that Taylor Hall scored off of was a bad one. If you kick a rebound into that location at any level you’re probably going to get scored on, and that’s what happened.

But I also wouldn’t put that play entirely on Sorokin. Sure, he gave up a bad rebound. But, Ryan Pulock was the one who turned the puck over at his own blue line, a fact I’m sure Barry Trotz pointed out to him. Taylor Hall had a lot to do with this one too. His forechecking and good stick positioning broke up Pulock’s outlet pass in the first place.

It was also just a smart play by Cody Eakin, and a deceptively difficult one to execute. Eakin’s quick, low snapshot hit Sorokin’s pad in exactly the right place to create that rebound, and Hall buried it before Adam Pelech could do anything to clear the puck away.

It’s the details that make a goalie great. Sometimes those details are granular. Sorokin is still getting the details of his game cleaned up, and considering this was his sixth NHL start and he’s coming off back-to-back shutouts that’s okay. Give him time, and enjoy the process.

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