Islanders’ Varlamov Disappoints in Return From Injury

The New York Islanders’ number-one option in net, Semyon Varlamov, made his long-awaited return to the ice last Sunday night. After missing the first nine games on the injured reserved list, Varlamov led the Isles onto the ice for the first time since Sept. 17. The Islanders matched up with the Minnesota Wild in Saint Paul on the second leg of a back-to-back. It was not the season opener that Varlamov would have hoped for, as the Isles fell to the Wild by a score of 5-2 after leading in the third period. It was a tough game against a good Wild team, but the whole team had ups and downs in this one that didn’t help Varlamov.

The Islanders’ Start

The Islanders haven’t had the start you’d expect from a team that made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final just a season ago. The Islanders currently have a record of 5-4-2, totaling 12 points. In classic Barry Trotz fashion, the team has scored just 27 goals, which ranks seventh in the Metropolitan Division. They’ve given up 29 goals, which is fourth in the division. It’s worth mentioning that the team has yet to play a game on home ice as they anxiously wait for construction on the UBS Center to complete. They are scheduled to have their first game at home on Nov. 20 against the Calgary Flames.

Varlamov’s Return

Semyon Varlamov was up against the odds on Sunday night when the Wild hosted the Islanders. As I mentioned, the team was playing their second game in as many nights, and they still have yet to play at home. Trotz has always put an emphasis on playing well on back-to-back games, but sometimes that is easier said than done. The Islanders held a one-goal lead heading into the third period of this game, but the Wild rattled off four unanswered goals to win the game by a final score of 5-2. The team just seemed to collectively lose steam in the last period, as the Wild gained the momentum and never looked back.

Related: Islanders 4-0 Loss to Devils Not a Concern

Breakdown of Varlamov’s Performance

Varlamov seemed to lose steam towards the end of the game as well. It was his first NHL ice-time since Game 7 of the Semifinal last season, but he was clearly not in peak shape towards the end of that game. Prior to the third period, he had flashes of greatness where he looked like he hadn’t missed a step. In the first period alone, he had 14 saves and didn’t allow a goal. He had one or two highlight-reel saves in the first period that reminded everyone who Varlamov is. He had a strong showing in the second period as well, only allowing one goal in the first two periods. Then everything fell apart.

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Varlamov had 10 saves in the third period, but the Wild had four goals, although two of them were empty netters. It was as bad as it looked, but blowing a third-period lead is probably not how he saw his season debut going. Two put it bluntly: the Islanders just looked gassed in the third period. The WIld outplayed them in every facet of the game, and it led to chances that they took advantage of.

Looking Ahead

Islanders fans should not panic about Varlamov just yet since it’s still early in the 2021-22 season. It was his first game back, and he is still knocking the rust off. It also helps that he won’t have any pressure to immediately find his form. Ilya Sorokin has been playing incredibly well in Varlamov’s absence, so the Islanders should sleep well at night knowing their goal-tending is in good hands.

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