X-Factor: Ilya Sorokin
You might be thinking: “how is Ilya Sorokin an x-factor? We knew he was a good player before the series began.”
And that’s certainly true. We knew Ilya Sorokin‘s quality going into the playoffs. But going into the series against Pittsburgh we didn’t think Sorokin would ever see the crease. Sure, Varly seemed to have picked up an owie in the final game of the regular season, but Barry Trotz assured anyone who would listen that Varly would be fine.
After all, it was Varlamov’s crease. The veteran Russian keeper had a Vezina trophy-worthy season with a 0.929SV%, 2.04GAA, and seven shutouts in 36 games (34 starts). If Varly was healthy he was going to start and that’s why he played Games 2 and 3. Even though Sorokin was phenomenal in Game 1.
But when Varlamov wasn’t his usual self in Games 2 and 3, Trotz went back to his younger shot-stopper to stop the bleeding and help his team get back in the series. The performance he got out of Sorokin in Game 5 was legendary.
There’s no question that the Islanders were the second-best team in Game 5. Sorokin stopped 48 of the 50 shots he faced. If not for Sorokin’s performance that night the Islanders get run out of Pittsburgh and hope to stave off elimination in Game 6.
Instead, thanks to Sorokin, the Islanders were able to return home to end the series.
Again, he wasn’t supposed to play. Varlamov was supposed to lead the team through the postseason. That’s why Sorokin is the series X-Factor.