3 Takeaways from Islanders’ 1-0 Loss vs Avalanche – 12/19/22

For the first time since April 22, 2021, the New York Islanders played a scoreless game through regulation and overtime. After a shutout in regulation and overtime, they finally lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the shootout. The Islanders earned a point in the game and won the season series against the defending Stanley Cup champion, but the loss leaves a bad taste in the mouth of a team that was wrapping up a season-defining five-game road trip.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Islanders’ 5-2 Win vs Golden Knights

The Islanders move to 1-1-2 on the road trip and 18-13-2 on the season. The point keeps them in the middle of a competitive Metropolitan Division and allows them to return to the New York area on a high note; with a 5-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights to go along with the shootout defeat. However, the recent game was a reminder of what the Islanders are lacking and where their weaknesses lie. Likewise, the game was a reminder of the strengths that carry the roster, particularly, the strength the team possesses in the net.

Sorokin’s Remarkable Performance

After struggling against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 6 in a 7-4 defeat and having a rough night against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 16 in a 5-4 loss, Ilya Sorokin needed a bounce-back game. Against the Avalanche, he not only rebounded but put together one of his best performances of the season.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sorokin saved all 46 shots he faced and the only time the puck found the back of the net was on Evan Rodrigues’ shootout attempt. The game wasn’t his best performance of the season – that would be the performance on Nov. 23 in a 49-save shutout against the Edmonton Oilers. However, he blanked the Avalanche offense and single-handedly allowed the Islanders to earn a point in the game.

The game was a reminder of the potent goaltending the Islanders possess, particularly with Sorokin who is having a Vezina Trophy-caliber season. Moreover, it showed how the Islanders’ goaltending can carry the team even when the rest of the roster struggles. The offense looked hapless but the team managed to earn a point, largely because of the remarkable saves from Sorokin.

Injuries Plague Both Offenses

When the Islanders last played the Avalanche on Oct. 29, they trailed 3-0 early, scored five unanswered goals, and won the game 5-4. The recent matchup couldn’t have looked more different. Both offenses looked hopeless and couldn’t generate scoring chances or find the back of the net. Moreover, puck movement was slower and skaters struggled to overwhelm the opposition with speed, resulting in a scoreless battle until the shootout.

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This game showed how two teams can be decimated, particularly on the offensive end of the ice by injuries. A lot of teams are dealing with injuries at this time in the season, but these two teams were playing without multiple contributors to the forward unit. The Avalanche were without Nathan MacKinnon and haven’t had Gabriel Landeskog in the lineup since the first month of the season. The Islanders meanwhile were without Kyle Palmieri, Cal Clutterbuck, and defenseman Adam Pelech, who with three goals and eight assists, has been one of the biggest contributors from the point this season. Both forward units looked weak and lacked a scoring presence and with both goaltenders playing at a high level, the result was a 1-0 game decided in the shootout.

Islanders Defense Steps Up

Pelech has been out of the lineup for the entire road trip and his absence has left a void in the defense. The recent games have shown the depth of the unit, which can play at a high level without an elite defenseman but also proved that Sebastian Aho and Robin Salo belong on the NHL roster. Both young defensemen have stepped up with Aho particularly playing a big role as a top-four option on the left side.

Sebastian Aho New York Islanders
Sebastian Aho, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders’ defensive unit stepped up once again against the Avalanche and helped keep the game scoreless. Sorokin carried the team with a remarkable game in the net but the defense helped secure the point as well with multiple takeaways and plenty of outlet passes to help keep the puck out of the defensive zone. Last season, the defense struggled to keep up with opponents and notably was slower and couldn’t exit their zone and enter the offensive zone with speed. This year, the unit has thrived in both categories and the recent game showed once again how far this defense has come as a younger and faster one.

What’s Next for the Islanders

The Islanders wrap up their road trip with the third and final matchup against the New York Rangers. They have beat the Rangers twice this season with a 3-0 shutout on Oct. 26 and a 4-3 comeback win on Nov. 8 but will look to sweep the season series and gain ground on the Metropolitan Division opponent in the process.

The Islanders are entering a stretch of the season where they have to win their divisional matchups. The Rangers have a seven-game winning streak while the Carolina Hurricanes have won their last five games, allowing both teams to surpass the Islanders in the division and leave them in fifth place. As a result, the upcoming game is going to be a pivotal one for them to end the road trip on a high note and continue what has been a promising season so far.

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