NY Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov showing he's a backup in a name only

New York Islanders v Columbus Blue Jackets
New York Islanders v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

The New York Islanders have an advantage between the pipes most nights when Ilya Sorokin is net and often when he isn't. That's because Semyon Varlamov is still capable of performing as a No. 1 goaltender and that was on display in Saturday night's 2-0 shutout win in Columbus.

Trailing 1-0, the Blue Jackets pressed hard in the third period, but Varlamov was up to the task, stopping all 16 shots he faced, including a few high-danger chances. “It was nerve-wracking, two great chances, but I’m glad they bailed me out when the puck was near the goal line,” Varlamov said after the game. “Don’t want to give up those. When we needed to block shots, the boys did it.” 

“I'm very happy about the way the team played and the way I played today,”

Varly moved into a tie for fifth on the Islanders' all-time shutout list with Tommy Salo after his 34-save performance in his second appearance of the season. It was the 35-year-old's first shutout since a 4-0 win in Winnipeg against the Jets on Feb. 26 last season.

While the Islanders once again allowed over 30 shots and have now given the most in a five-game span since 2018, the team played better in front of Varlamov than they did in his first game of the season last Saturday versus the Buffalo Sabres.

“Varly was outstanding,” Adam Pelech said. “It felt good as a group to play better in front of him because he’s the best. We want to do well for him, he had a great game. A lot of commitment and sacrifice at the end there blocking shots; it was definitely a full team effort.”

Games like last night are what GM Lou Lamoriello envisioned when he resigned Varlamov to a four-year contract extension to play alongside Sorokin for the foreseeable future. The Isles are the first team with two goalies to record shutouts this season (Sorokin vs. Arizona). With Sorokin operating as the No. 1 and Varlamov the 1A, it's one of the hopefully many categories the tandem leads the league in this season.