The Wraparound: Varlamov on cusp of Islanders playoff shutout record

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down all of the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• Check out NHL Bubble Wrap to look back at all of Tuesday’s action.

Kasperi Kapanen heads back to Pittsburgh as the Penguins and Maple Leafs complete a six-player deal. 

• John Tortorella is $25,000 poorer today after cutting short a media availability last week.

The NHL pause served Semyon Varlamov well. Along with it giving the Islanders an opportunity in the playoffs, it allowed the goaltender to reset and focus on erasing the final two weeks of his regular season.

As the Islanders were in the middle of a slide that saw them drop 11 of their final 13 games, head coach Barry Trotz alternated between Varlamov and Thomas Greiss for their final seven games. Varlamov got four of those starts and allowed four goals in each, all defeats.

Time off helped the 32-year-old Varlamov. Once the NHL Return to Play began, he was given the No. 1 job in the Qualifying Round against Florida, helping the Islanders dispatch the Panthers in four games. The timely saves continued into the First Round against Washington, as the Capitals were eliminated in five games. In Game 1 against the Flyers in the Second Round, the Islanders opened the series with a second straight shutout.

Varlamov’s current shutout streak is at 136:20 and he can break the Islanders franchise playoff record if he keeps the Flyers off the scoreboard for at least the first 40 seconds of Game 2 Wednesday (3 p.m. ET,  NBCSN; livestream). The current Islanders record is held by Billy Smith, who set it during the 1980 Stanley Cup Playoffs over three games.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“He’s been huge right from Day One since he came to us,” said Islanders forward Brock Nelson. “Not that we expect it, but obviously he goes out there and performs every night and is a backbone for us, so it’s nice knowing that we have him behind us. If there’s a breakdown or an error, he can bail us out.

“We’ve had good goaltending now for a while, [but] lately he’s been on it making big saves, timely saves. That can win you games at this time of year.”

After the rough end to the regular season, Varlamov has been the backbone of an Islanders defensive unit that’s shut down opponents on a nightly basis. Only twice in his 10 starts this postseason has he allowed more than two goals, the only two defeats on their playoff record so far. He’s tops among all goaltenders with a .968 5-on-5 save percentage and a 7.47 goals saved above average, per Natural Stat Trick.

Each layer of the Islanders team is boosting the other. Varlamov is helping the blue line, which has limited opponents to 25.6 shots per game, and the defense is bolstering the offense, which is averaging 3.4 goals per game, an increase from 2.78 during the regular season.

[Full NHL Second Round schedule]

“Anytime you have your goaltending playing well, it gives your team confidence,” Trotz said on Tuesday. “I think we’ve played pretty well in front of him, and he’s made some really good stops at key times, especially yesterday.

“I didn’t care for our game really [Monday]. I thought the first period was real strong, and then after that I thought we were very average. We’ve got a lot of work to do and help him out. But he’s made big saves at key times. That’s the key in goaltending, I think. You look at some of the great goaltenders in the National Hockey League, it’s not necessarily the numbers or anything like that, it’s do you make the save at the key time that allows you to win.”

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 3: Bruins vs. Lightning (Series tied 1-1) – 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN; livestream: Despite multiple setbacks in Game 2, the Lightning beat the Bruins 4-3 in OT to tie the Second Round series at 1-1. Ondrej Palat ended up scoring the overtime game-winner. The teams have little time to recover as Game 3 comes 24 hours later. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has yet to announce if he’ll stick with Jaroslav Halak in goal or turn to Dan Vladar, who’s yet to make an NHL start in his career.

Game 3: Avalanche vs. Stars (DAL leads 2-0) – 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN; livestream: After Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen assisted each other and put Dallas in a 2- 0 second-period hole, the Stars scored five unanswered goals, including four in a span of 9:20 in the second period, to win 5-2 and take a 2-0 series lead. Dallas has won five straight games since going down 2-1 in the First Round against Calgary. This is the Stars’ longest postseason winning streak since 1999, when they won six straight en route to winning the Stanley Cup. With MacKinnon’s goal and assist in Game 2, he extended his playoff point streak to 10 games – matching a franchise record

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 3: Islanders vs. Flyers, 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (NYI lead 1-0)
Game 3: Golden Knights vs. Canucks, 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (Series tied 1-1)

PHT’s 2020 Second Round previews
Bruins vs. Lightning
Flyers vs. Islanders
Stars vs. Avalanche
Golden Knights vs. Canucks
PHT predictions

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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