Has goaltending been a major problem lately for the NY Islanders?

Isles have allowed 4+ goals in 12 of 22 games since January 1st.

2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - New York Rangers v New York Islanders
2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

It doesn't feel right to accuse goaltending to be the main issue for the NY Islanders this season. Most fans know that is not the case, it has not been the main issue, but it has been disappointing considering the elite level of goaltending the Blue and Orange employed last year, and even the years before.

Ilya Sorokin is still the rock in goal for New York. That is not changing, nor should it, but he should be held somewhat accountable nonetheless. After a Vezina trophy-caliber 2022-23 season, Sorokin has gone from allowing an average of 2.34 goals against to 3.11 goals against this season, while his save percentage has also dipped from .924 percent to .909 percent.

What's interesting about this drop in production is that the workload for Sorokin heading into the playoffs last season was massive, and the fatigue clearly showed in their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes. New head coach Patrick Roy, who knows something about playing goalie, plans to work with Semyon Varlamov more than previous head coach Lane Lambert did throughout his tenure, assuring Sorokin gets ample rest. Speaking of Varlamov, while he was banged up throughout January he has been statistically similar to Sorokin, with a .910 save percentage and 2.91 GAA.

Many can blame how the defense in front of them hasn't played up to standard, which is certainly true. It does not help your goaltender when the Islanders have trouble killing penalties, boasting the league's worst unit at just 71 percent, arguably the biggest issue with the Islanders right now along with blowing third-period leads. If we isolate the goaltending analytics, Sorokin's goals saved above expected (GSAx) is at just 3.9, ranking 29th in the league, with Varlamov not far behind at 2.3 for 33rd (According to Moneypuck). To give an idea of where that puts them, other goalies hovering around those marks include Alex Nedeljkovic, Petr Mrazek, Alexander Georgiev, and Samuel Ersson. No disrespect to those goaltenders, but Sorokin is considered in the top class of NHL netminders and they simply are not.

When looking around this league this season, many teams have also had their woes in goal, specifically with goaltenders who are paid top dollar, so the Islanders are not alone. Only seven goaltenders around the league have a .915 save percentage and have played at least 25 games. Sergei Bobrovsky, Thatcher Demko, and Connor Hellebuyck are the only three making above $5 million per season. It's a different league now compared to how it was 10 years ago, with scoring phenoms that seemingly nobody can stop such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, and Nikita Kucherov - but eventually, goaltending will need to be honed in on to secure playoff positions and go even further.

That is no different for the Isles. Even though there is talk of New York possibly being sellers at the trade deadline, it's hard to believe GM Lou Lamoriello will give up on this roster right now, despite its limits. One thing is for certain, though, that the Russian goaltending duo is going nowhere anytime soon. After this season, Sorokin is locked in at $8.25 million per season for the next eight years, and Varlamov is also under contract for another four at age 35. It's rare to have goaltending that fans can have confidence in every single night they play, and the Islanders have that in the present and future with Sorokin, everyone can see that. Even with that being said, this season has been anything but perfect in the crease for New York and they'll need to step up just a bit more as the season starts winding down.