The expectations for New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin heading into this season were understandably off the charts. After a highlight reel-filled and remarkable 2022-23 campaign, Sorokin was routinely discussed as one of the league's best goaltenders and a Vezina Trophy favorite.
The Islanders signed him to an eight-year extension on Jul. 1, not expecting Sorokin to be good for the next decade; they expect him to be great, a difference-maker that gives them a decisive advantage at the start of nearly every game he starts.
However, things haven't played out that way so far this season.
In eight starts, Sorokin has a 3.24 GAA and .907 save percentage, both well off his career numbers. Goals Saved Above Expected was an advanced stat that was synonymous with Sorokin last year. Per MoneyPuck, he is currently 50th in the league this season (-1.1), after ending third in that category last season. Meanwhile, teammate Semyon Varlamov is ranked fourth in the same category.
Sorokin isn't getting much help, but he didn't last season either.
According to statistician Eric Hornick, The 28-year-old has faced at least 34 shots in six straight starts; only one Isles goalie, Jaroslav Halak, in 2017-18 has faced at least 34 shots in more consecutive starts (10). Facing all that rubber has led to Sorokin allowing four goals in three consecutive games (0-1-2) for the first time in his career.
The team's problems don't start or end with Sorokin, but many of the defensive deficiencies on display now were also happening last season when was Vezina Trophy runner-up and even received Hart Trophy votes. That recognition was an acknowledgment that he was the main reason the Islanders, despite all their shortcomings, were able to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs a year ago.
If you thought the Islanders were a playoff-caliber team before the start of the season, the first reason was because of Sorokin. If he's average for long stretches instead of elite, the team has little chance of being anything more than average either. A great goalie can mask a lot of problems; so far he hasn't been able to do it the way he did last season.