Ilys Sorokin stepping up for the NY Islanders in Semyon Varlamov's absence

Jan 4, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) looks on in the
Jan 4, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) looks on in the / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

There's very little argument that Ilya Sorokin has been the most valuable player for the NY Islanders over the last two seasons. In 2021-22, on an Islanders team that trailed the pack in the Eastern Conference playoff race for nearly the entire season, Sorokin ended with a 2.40 GAA and .935 SV%, appearing in 52 games. Last season, he took on a more considerable workload, appearing in 62 games with a 2.34 GAA and .924 SV%, finishing runner-up for the Vezina Trophy.

With Semyon Varlamov going down with an undisclosed injury on Tuesday night during the Islanders' 5-4 OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Sorokin will be called on more often until there is a clear timetable for Varly's return.

Sorokin was in goal for all six of the Pittsburgh Penguins second period goals in the 7-0 thrashing coming out of the holiday break, but he's been phenomenal in net since. In the four games since, Sorokin's allowed two or fewer goals in three, with the only outlier being the game he relieved Varlamov. His GAA over that time is 2.14 while posting a .932 Sv%.

Not only has he been making the saves he's expected to make, but he's also been stonewalling big opportunities from the opposition. According to Natural Stat Trick, Sorokin has faced 29 high-danger shots in all situations, turning away 25 of them. He stepped up multiple times against the Avalanche in a game the Isles were outplayed, playing the most prominent role in them leaving Denver with a point. His save on a shorthanded breakaway from Logan O'Connor halfway through the third period kept the Isles in front for the being and was part of why they sent the game to OT.

The last thing the Islanders want to do is overwork Sorokin like he was last season. Varlamov has been phenomenal this season when he's been called on, as the two continue to be one of the best duo's in the league.

Ken Appleby remains the backup for now, but Lane Lambert likely won't want to turn to the 28-year-old who has only one NHL start under his belt back in 2018 with the NJ Devils.

It appears Sorokin will get the nod tonight as the Isles take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights. The Isles will ride Sorokin for as long as they can, with hopes that it won't be an extended period. Continuing to play at his current level will keep the Isles in the thick of the playoff race until Varlamov's return.