The future has officially arrived for the New York Islanders in the form of Ilya Sorokin.
Okay, so you could argue that it arrived a month or so ago given that Ilya Sorokin has a few games under his belt for the New York Islanders already, but you can say that Tuesday night was the rookie’s Welcome to the NHL moment.
Making his fourth start of the 2020-21 season on Tuesday, Sorokin was literally unstoppable as the New York Islanders beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 at KeyBank Center, claiming his first career NHL win and his first career shutout in the NHL.
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It was quite the night for Sorokin who was 0-2-1 prior to Tuesday, struggling at times which shouldn’t be a surprise given that there is no guarantee all rookies will enjoy a smooth transition to the National Hockey League. I mean, you only have to look at Jack Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, and Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, to understand that.
Anyway, the Islanders have also decided to ride the hot hand between the pipes with established veteran Semyon Varlamov playing at at MVP level so far in 2020-21, going 7-2-2 with a .931 Save Percentage and a 1.89 Goals Against Average. Stellar to say the least. Varlamov has also stockpiled three shutouts and ranks among the league leaders among goalies in the NHL.
That’s exactly why the Isles have been in no rush to give their potential goaltender of the future a heavy workload, knowing that they can instead rely on Varlamov to carry the load while their rookie figures life out in North America and adapts to playing in the best league on the planet.
However, the baton will eventually need to be passed and that’s why Tuesday night was not only huge for Sorokin and his career, but it was also a pretty significant moment for the New York Islanders and their immediate and long-term future.
The future looks bright for the New York Islanders with Ilya Sorokin
It is important to remember that Ilya Sorokin’s long-awaited NHL debut ended in disaster as the 25-year-old was unexpectedly thrown into the fire against the New York Rangers after Semyon Varlamov was hurt during warmups. With the Blueshirts out for revenge after losing 4-0 on opening night, Sorokin was faced with an onslaught and he allowed five goals on 32 shots against.
He allowed just two goals on 24 shots against in his second game, against the New Jersey Devils, but was still on the losing side and he lost his third game in Overtime with his teammates unable to light the lamp at the other end in order to help their young rookie.
With Varlamov playing at an elite level, that led to Sorokin sitting for 15 days with his start at Buffalo on Tuesday night his first taste of action since Jan. 31. Some may have feared a similar result to what happened against the Rangers weeks ago given the sheer amount of days between starts but, instead, Ilya Sorokin truly answered the bell.
Now, granted, it was against the lowly Buffalo Sabres who had failed to record a single shot on goal in the third period of their loss to the Isles on Monday, but you still have to perform to a high level in order to keep pucks out of the net in the NHL and Sorokin certainly did that.
He stopped all 20 shots he faced for his first career shutout in the NHL, laying the groundwork for his team to do the rest as the New York Islanders improved to 8-4-3 on the year, while they extended their point streak to eight straight games (5-0-3).
Sorokin did what he had to do and made some tidy saves to ensure that the Isles never requinlished that lead, and his first career win in the NHL should give him and his teammates a lot of confidence going forward. I mean, he stood tall to deny Taylor Hall on a breakaway and he also did a good job of tracking the puck through traffic to stop a redirection from Jack Eichel. It was an impressive night’s work from the rookie.
This was an important night for the New York Islanders given that they pride themselves on structure and an elite goaltending tandem, and they will hope that their prized asset in Ilya Sorkin can build off his coming-out party on Tuesday and now, like Semyon Varlamov, be consistently great.
Because, if Ilya Sorokin can indeed translate the confidence he would have gained from Tuesday night to consistent high-level performances, then not only will that help the New York Islanders be a legitimate contender this year with an unstoppable tandem between the pipes, but it should also ensure that they are incredibly competitive for the foreseeable future with their franchise goaltender in place.