2. Ilya Sorokin Came Up Big When He Needed To
Considering all the team’s struggles tonight, the Islanders were fortunate to even make it to a shootout. Fortune, in the case of Thursday’s game, came in the form of Ilya Sorokin, who was very good again despite allowing a poor goal late in the first period to cut the Islanders lead to 2-1.
The Islanders got worked over for most of this game. They were out-shot 27-23, out-shot attempted 56-42, and out-chanced 35-29. Those numbers were very indicative of an Islanders team who too often weren’t moving their feet, weren’t in the places they were supposed to be, and weren’t making hard for Philadelphia to execute their tactics.
The last time the Islanders met the Flyers, one of my three takeaways was about how the Islanders made Carter Hart’s job too easy on him. Hart has struggled mightily this season, as his -18.57 GSAx entering Thursday’s game was worst in the NHL among goalies who faced 201 or more unblocked shot attempts.
For those unaware, GSAx, or Goals Saved Above Expected, is one of the best metrics used today to judge a goalie’s performance. I like it because I find it to be more informative than SV%, which tells you the percentage of shots on goal a goaltender has saved, but doesn’t give any context for how dangerous those shots were.
Conversely, Ilya Sorokin entered Thursday’s game at Nassau Coliseum with a .88 GSAx. Not great, but certainly not bad, and only slightly worse than Semyon Varlamov’s 1.56, according to Top Down Hockey. That number is going to go up after tonight’s game, because Sorokin saved .96 goals above expected in the winning effort, according to Natural Stat Trick.
He was again very good in the shootout, stymying five Flyers shooters to seal the win for New York. There were some concerns about Sorokin’s play when he first arrived here, and there have been those who feel he hasn’t been good, or hasn’t stolen wins for this team. But he stole a win tonight, not just in the shootout, but through regulation and overtime as well.