3 huge X-Factors that will make or break the rest of the Islanders season

The Islanders are still in the playoff hunt, and to maximize their chances, they must improve three major areas of their game.

Feb 18, 2024; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30)
Feb 18, 2024; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Defensive zone play is another major area of improvement

Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov haven’t looked good from an overall GAA standpoint, which collectively sits at roughly 3.00. But it’s a rather bad stat to judge them by, given the poor play defensively. This isn’t to say the duo, especially Sorokin, shouldn’t step up their respective games and come up big amidst the team’s defensive struggles, but it would be easier on everyone if the Isles played better in the defensive zone. 

So far in 2023-24, Sorokin and Varlamov faced 34.6 shots on goal per game, and it’s an inexcusable number for what should be a playoff-caliber team like the Islanders. Adding a forward who can play defense like Adam Henrique would serve this team well if the Isles can afford to bring him in, but right now, it’s tough to see the current group giving much value. 

The 5-on-5 numbers can be deceptive here, given New York’s 0.929 save percentage and 104 actual goals allowed vs. 123.9 expected goals against. They have given up a resounding 518 high-danger scoring chances, but just 40 goals off of those chances. That said, it’s not the goaltending, even if Sorokin needs to show some heroics, but the defensive play is the real culprit.