3 reasons the NY Islanders should have more optimism this postseason than last

A few key players could be the difference between success and failure against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Feb 8, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and New York
Feb 8, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and New York / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Semyon Varlamov has a role this postseason

The 2022-23 Islanders rode Sorokin from opening night to an eventual wild-card berth in April. The 27-year-old goaltender started 60 games last season producing a .924 save percentage in 1,838 opposing shot attempts. Sorokin's six shutouts led the NHL and resulted in a second-place finish for the Vezina Trophy. However, Lambert may have gotten carried away by this luxurious performance as he asked Sorokin to start the final 12 games of 2022-23 including all six playoff games against the Hurricanes.

Playing Sorokin in nearly every game down the stretch left Semyon Varlamov without a role on the playoff roster. The 16-year veteran only played in 23 games last season with a .913 save percentage in 629 opposing shots on goal. Under Barry Trotz's leadership, the Isles always split ice time more evenly between both goaltenders. This was the case even back when Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner suited up in blue and orange in 2018-19. However, Lambert essentially glued Varlamov to the bench without explanation.

The 2023-24 season has been different for the 35-year-old goaltender. Under his former head coach Patrick Roy, Varlamov has started 7 of the last 10 games this season. He is 6-1-0 over this stretch of games allowing just 3 or fewer goals in all of them. With Sorokin having a down season due to fatigue and poor defensive performance at the blue line, Varlamov has become integral to the Isles' success and figures to play a role against the Hurricanes this postseason.