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Islanders: Three Takeaways from Thursday’s 5-3 Win over Devils

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JANUARY 21: Matt Tennyson #7 and Scott Wedgewood #41 of the New Jersey Devils defend the net from Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders during the second period at Nassau Coliseum on January 21, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JANUARY 21: Matt Tennyson #7 and Scott Wedgewood #41 of the New Jersey Devils defend the net from Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders during the second period at Nassau Coliseum on January 21, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin #30 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

3. Ilya Sorokin Had a Third Period to Forget

Good or bad, eventually any NHL team is going to find ways to push back after a second period like the one New Jersey had. The Devils did just that on Thursday and found a way to seemingly make this a game in the third period.

Now, I should note that I didn’t think the Islanders’ third period was that bad, meaning not bad enough to surrender three goals in the frame.

There were some missteps, some poor defensive zone coverages, and the forecheck that looked so good in previous periods wasn’t as precise and effective. But generally speaking, the period wasn’t altogether a terrible one. The Islanders weren’t thoroughly outplayed by any means, and certainly didn’t play poorly enough to surrender three goals in the frame.

Ilya Sorokin really wasn’t very good at all in the third, and as a consequence, New Jersey ended up clawing back to within striking distance in the late going.

Yes, Jack Hughes’s goal to make it a 5-3 game was an excellent effort, and that goal can absolutely be forgiven. But the other two, not so much. The first one, scored by Devils winger Janne Kuokkanen, was really the product of a sloppy rebound left in the slot by Sorokin. That’s a problem we’ve seen persist all season in Sorokin’s game, and it burned him here again.

The second New Jersey goal came off a Mikhail Maltsev backhander from a sharp angle. Maltsev shot the puck from the opposite side of the face-off dot, and somehow it ended up in the net. How, I really don’t know. Just a seeing-eye shot, I suppose, but ultimately one that Sorokin should’ve definitely gobbled up easily.

This wasn’t a good start for Sorokin. I don’t think that’s really debatable. The Islanders played a dominant game in front of him and staked themselves to a four-goal lead after 40 minutes of play. As four-goal lead third periods go, the Islanders played back conservatively and allowed New Jersey more time and space with the puck, but the Islanders having a poor period isn’t the lead here.

Sorokin has been good for the Isles in most of his starts, and his numbers back that up. Before Semyon Varlamov’s great start vs. the Boston Bruins this week, Sorokin’s GSAx, or Goals Saved Above Expected, was actually higher than Varly’s.

But, context is important, and I don’t think GSAx, as important a metric as it is to measuring goalie performance, really tells the full story with Sorokin. He’s been good but certainly hasn’t been challenged in the same way Varlamov has in 2020-21, not even close.

We’ll likely get to see Sorokin again at some point this weekend, as the Islanders again play a Saturday-Sunday back-to-back, this time in Newark. Hopefully, his performance in that game rebounds, because like I and others have said all season, the talent and athleticism are there.

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