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Islanders: Three Takeaways from Thursday Shootout Loss to Capitals

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders makes a save against Conor Sheary #73 of the Washington Capitals during their game at Nassau Coliseum on April 06, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders makes a save against Conor Sheary #73 of the Washington Capitals during their game at Nassau Coliseum on April 06, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

2. Semyon Varlamov’s Strong Start Gave Islanders a Chance

The New York Islanders have really come to be way too reliant on their goalies over the last month or so. They’ve scored more than three goals just five times since March 9, and have been held to two or fewer a whopping nine times in that same timeframe.

The Islanders are 4-5-1 in games which they’ve scored two or fewer goals since March 9 and they have been outscored 19-10 in those 10 games. Collecting 9 of a potential 20 points in a 10-game stretch isn’t good, but considering the context here it could be much worse if the Isles’ goalie tandem hadn’t been on their games.

Tonight was another example of that. If the Islanders had come away winners in the shootout there is no one on the team more deserving of praise than Semyon Varlamov, who turned aside 28 Capitals shots in regulation and overtime.

Varly finished the night with 1.88 Goals Saved Above Expected, (GSAx) while his opposing number Ilya Samsonov finished saving 1.52 above expected. GSAx adds deeper context to a goalie’s performance than SV% or GAA does, which is why I prefer to use it over the more traditional goalie stats.

What we see from Varly’s higher GSAx than Samsonov’s is that the Islanders goalie faced a heavier and more dangerous workload. Of course, the stat isn’t perfect and there’s plenty of room for the eye test to make further assessments of goalie performance. But, I think trusting your eyes would also show you that Varly had a very good game, and faced the tougher task on Thursday.

Despite the result, more efforts like these are needed by the Islanders goaltending tandem. This team has struggled to find offense consistently, and in a tight playoff race the difference between finishing in first place or third could come down to the tiniest minutiae, the slimmest of margins.

Luckily, Varly and Ilya Sorokin have been up to the task for much of this season. The Islanders will need that to continue being the case while they try to solve for their offensive woes and period-to-period inconsistency issues.

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