On Saturday, Jan. 16, Ilya Sorokin made his debut for the New York Islanders, and it was one to forget. He allowed five goals on 32 shots and had 20 blocked shots from the defense to help. Additionally, he took a few poor angles on the New York Rangers’ goals, and that can’t continue at the NHL level. The 5-0 defeat might have anyone concerned about how the Islanders will look throughout this season and if the goaltending depth will become a potential problem.
As terrible as the night was for Sorokin, it’s hard to pin this game’s blame on him, and Islanders fans shouldn’t worry about the young goaltender’s future. Granted, the performance in goal against the Rangers was a bad one, but there are some things to consider looking back on the game and to potentially look forward to as Sorokin will continue to be the primary backup and start multiple games in this 56-game season.
It Was a Surprise Start
During warmups, starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov, took a puck to the neck and was declared out for the game only minutes before the puck drop, making it hard for any backup to prepare for a game, much less the first one in an NHL career.
Sorokin was baptized by fire, and the lack of preparation is hard to blame on the 25-year-old goalie. Considering that the majority of games that he will start won’t be from unusual circumstances, we can expect better performances from the goaltender that won the 2019 Gagarin Cup.
Turnovers in the Zone Resulted in Many of the Goals
Less than three minutes into the game, defenseman Noah Dobson had a costly turnover at the Rangers’ blue line that resulted in the first goal of the game. In fact, you can blame four of the Rangers’ five goals on poor blue line turnovers or blue line defense by the Islanders that resulted in breakaway goals, with the final goal being a result of a five-minute penalty from Ross Johnston.
While the responsibility might fall on Sorokin for allowing the five goals in his first start, this game was truly a referendum on the defense, which is normally a strength of the Islanders. After the game, head coach Barry Trotz said, “This is a team loss for me,” and it’s easy to see why. Aside from the costly turnovers, the inability to create opportunities and counter-attacks made the night all the more difficult for Sorokin in his debut.
Rangers Were Poised for a Bounce-Back Game
It’s hard to watch this game and not think about how the Rangers played a great game. After being shutout in the opening game of the season by Varlamov, many of the Rangers’ star players look poised for a bounce-back performance, and they delivered just that. Artemi Panarin is one of the best scorers in the NHL, and after the Islanders eliminated his playmaking in the first game, Panarin and the 25-year-old rising scorer Pavel Buchnevich both found the back of the net twice, a reminder of why the Rangers are regarded as a potential team to win the East Division.
In addition to the Rangers playing well offensively, their defense held the Islanders to only 23 shots on goal. Granted, the Islanders spent 26 minutes in the penalty box and were unable to establish much of an offense because of it, but the Rangers were able to keep the puck in the Islanders’ zone and put together a team shutout. The Islanders lost this game in all facets, and part of the blame can fall on Sorokin, but the team collectively was outplayed.
What Can We Expect From Sorokin Going Forward?
This game might remind us that Varlamov is still the starting goalie for the Islanders. Sorokin is going to improve and should turn into the promising goalie we all expect him to be. For now, this game was just a bump in the road to what should be a promising career. If the struggles continue, Trotz is going to have to reevaluate the goaltending situation, but we can expect there to only be improvements from here on out. Sorokin will likely start a game in more normal circumstances the next time around.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers, a team that has turned themselves into legitimate cup contenders with Barry Trotz as the head coach. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms since graduating college in September 2020.