The New York Islanders have done quite well under General Manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz. A crucial part of the Islanders’ play is their defensive mindset. With that in mind, the one position that benefits the most from this system is the goaltender. The Islanders are known for playing a goalie tandem throughout the season. With the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury from Las Vegas, the Islanders’ goalie duo will be contending for the best goalie pair in the NHL. While most teams can play one goalie because he is significantly better than the other, this is tricky for the Islanders. Coach Trotz generally likes to joke that the Islanders will be starting a left-handed goalie from Russia as a way to keep it vague. However, each goalie has his strengths and weaknesses and they combine to create a dominant tandem. Despite this, only one can be the Isles’ primary, go-to starting goalie. Here are the cases for both players.
Semyon Varlamov is coming off a career season. He tied for an NHL-high seven shutouts and finished the season with a 21.94 GSAA and a 9.82 GSAx. He also became a fan favorite down the stretch. One of his biggest pros is playing against the New York Rangers. He has won eleven of nineteen against the Rangers in his career, with four of those wins being shutouts. Also, he saved many potential goals in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning last year, giving the Isles a better chance for victory. Even in their final loss, Tampa was limited to just one goal. When the Islanders are having an off night, Varlamov does his best to keep the game close and defends the crease to the best of his ability.
Coming off his rookie season, Ilya Sorokin filled the 1B role perfectly. Sorokin joined the Islanders in the playoff bubble last season after arriving from Russia. He recorded a 5.6 GSAA and a 3.37 GSAx with three shutouts. A highlight from his first season was his tremendous role in the Islanders’ first-round victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, in his first few games of that season, Sorokin did not start strong. An injury during warmups caused him to be subbed at the last minute when he wasn’t NHL ready yet. The Islanders went on to lose that game 5-0. A big problem for Sorokin early on was getting the angle down. He was used to the KHL-sized rink, so it took time to adjust. Luckily for the Islanders, it seemed late in the season that he was able to improve. Sorokin became quick on his pads, easily sliding across the crease to prevent goals. In his sophomore season this year, he will look to get even better.
Choice For Starter
Based on the numbers from last season, it seems like the obvious choice for the primary starter is Semyon Varlamov. With that said, both goalies fit the Islanders’ system and are interchangeable when needed. Sorokin will likely need more NHL experience to get on Varlamov’s level. The Islanders have been playoff contenders the past few seasons but for this to continue, the goalie duo led by Semyon Varlamov will need to look strong yet again.