3. Ilya Sorokin’s Performance, Semyon Varlamov’s Continued Absence
Ilya Sorokin turned aside 39 of 42 Pittsburgh shots to earn his first-ever Stanley Cup Playoffs win. The Islanders game one starter played well enough to earn his team the victory, and that’s all he needed to do.
Sorokin did appear to struggle with his rebound control at times throughout this game. He wasn’t perfect, though I wouldn’t say that any of the three Penguins goals were his fault either.
Sorokin finished by saving .3 goals below expected (GSAx) on the night, according to Natural Stat Trick, though that number doesn’t necessarily reflect some of Ilya’s brighter moments in game one. He made a diving split save to keep the Isles in it, and he limited his mistakes, for the most part, that’s a good sign for a playoff debutant goaltender.
There were some tense moments however after Adam Pelech was dumped at the side of the net by Bryan Rust and fell directly on top of Sorokin’s back. The Isles and Penguins scrum behind the New York net, and Sorokin lay still in the crease in what felt like it could’ve been a series-altering moment.
Thankfully, Sorokin was okay, and the Islanders didn’t need to call upon the services of Cory Schneider, who hasn’t seen any game action all season long outside of two appearances with AHL Bridgeport.
It does however beg the question of when Semyon Varlamov will return to action. Varly was injured in the Islanders final regular-season game at Boston and did not return for the final period of that game. Since then he’s begun practicing with the team, as confirmed by Barry Trotz, but he was absent from the Islanders game one lineup.
Having Varlamov back for the Islanders would be an obvious boost to confidence for the fans, and probably for the team as well. It’s not that Ilya Sorokin was bad in game one. Not at all. It’s just the security of knowing that should something happen to the Islanders starter going forward, another NHL-caliber goaltender could take his place.