The Ilya Sorokin era might have officially arrived for the New York Islanders.
The rookie goalie has started two games in their First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they just so happen to be the two games they have won.
Sorokin was nearly flawless on Saturday afternoon stopping 29 out of the 30 shots he faced in a dominant 4-1 Islanders win to help them even the series at two games apiece. Sorokin also started the Islanders’ Game 1 overtime win in Pittsburgh where he stopped 39 out of 42 shots. Overall he has a .944 save percentage in his two starts. Semyon Varlamov started Games 2 and 3, allowing seven goals in the two losses. He has a .903 save percentage for the series.
While Varlamov was the superior goalie during the regular season, it is difficult to imagine Barry Trotz sitting Sorokin for Game 5 on Monday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in Pittsburgh given the way things have played out so far. The Islanders have been waiting for his arrival for years and he is without question the future of the position. That future might be now.
He did not have to make a ton of big saves, but he was greatly early on and made a huge save on Kasperi Kapanen who broke in on a partial breakaway on one of the game’s first shifts. If Kapanen scores there it could have turned the game in a completely different direction given how much the Islanders can tend to struggle when they give up the first goal.
But while he was great on Saturday, he was far from the only story of the Islanders’ win.
Overall they played what was by far the best, most complete game of the series and did exactly what they wanted to do — slow the pace down, frustrate the Penguins stars, and get in on their forecheck and disrupt things in the offensive zone by throwing pucks at the net and creating havoc around the net. Two of the Islanders’ four goals went into the net off of Penguins players, while their first goal was the result of Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shoving a player into Tristan Jarry and knocking him off balance.
Good bounces? Sure. But none of those breaks happen if you do not create possession and get the puck at the net. They were fantastic at it on Saturday, and it was a noticeable shift from the first three games where the pace was far more eventful.
Another positive development for the Islander was Mathew Barzal playing his best game of the series. After a quiet start in Games 1-3, he was at his best on Saturday creating several changes, using his speed to take over his shifts, and adding two assists. He is the one game-breaking forward the Islanders have in their lineup and if they can get three more games like that from him it is going to significantly help their chances.
PENGUINS VS. ISLANDERS (Series tied 2-2) – series livestream link
Game 1: Islanders 4, Penguins 3 (OT)
Game 2: Penguins 2, Islanders 1
Game 3: Penguins 5, Islanders 4
Saturday, May 22: Islanders 4, Penguins 1
Monday, May 24: Islanders at Penguins, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
*Wednesday, May 26: Penguins at Islanders TBD
*Friday, May 28: Islanders at Penguins TBD