The New York Islanders needed to have a big answer against the Pittsburgh Penguins in game four to avoid going down 3-1 in the series.
Having gone down two games to one in their opening-round playoff series with the Penguins, the New York Islanders needed to have a big answer on home ice in game four. They got that answer and beat Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry four times on 26 shots on goal to win 4-1 in front of a raucous Nassau Coliseum crowd.
Here are three takeaways from the big win and return to form performance.
1. Sorokin’s Solid but Unspectacular Performance
I call Ilya Sorokin’s performance unspectacular simply based on the fact that his teammates didn’t make him work extremely hard. Sorokin faced 30 shots on goal and turned aside 29 of those of course, but by and large, the chances Pittsburgh had against Ilya were not of a particularly scary nature.
While a one-goal, 29-save performance is very solid, diving deeper into the numbers makes clear that Sorokin’s day was a fair bit easier than Jarry’s. Sorokin faced only six high-danger shots against*, and turned aside five of them. He stopped all 23 medium-to-low danger shots faced.
On the other end, Tristan Jarry faced 12 high-danger shots against, saved eight of them, and also turned aside all medium-to-low danger shots against.
* High, Medium, & Low-Danger shot totals courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Sorokin saved 1.03 goals above expected (GSAx) on 2.03 expected goals against (xGA) in all situations. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, they’re a refreshing regression back to where Islanders goaltending is expected to be.
Semyon Varlamov allowed five goals on 2.19 xGA in all situations in Thursday’s game three loss, a stark departure from the veteran NHL’er’s great run of form in the 2020 bubble playoffs and 2020-21 regular season.
Sorokin in game four didn’t have to have a show-stopping performance. He made the saves you’d expect him to, and he just played within himself. The Islanders strong defensive performance kept the Penguins away from the front of his net for the most part and allowed him to do that.
That said, there were a few memorable saves made by Ilya on the day. His early save on Kasperi Kapanen, who had beaten Scott Mayfield to an inside lane in the neutral zone and raced in on net off a pass by Evgeni Malkin, felt like another moment in which the Islanders could’ve surrendered an early goal. Only they didn’t, thanks to Sorokin’s blocker.
Later, Sorokin denied Sidney Crosby by tracking the Penguins captain all the way across his crease to deny an in-tight opportunity.
So Sorokin’s play-in game four wasn’t spectacular, but it was good enough to win, just as it was in game one. While I made the argument that Semyon Varlamov wasn’t the Islanders problem in game two, he certainly was a big part of it in game three, and in game four Sorokin was part of the solution. His work on Saturday afternoon should earn the young Russian a game five start.