It isn’t a secret that the New York Islanders haven’t been playing their best hockey of late. They have struggled to score goals and haven’t looked like the team fans have grown accustomed to seeing under head coach Barry Trotz.
That being said, the Islanders are still a respectable 6-7-1 in their last 14 games and they were able to lock up a playoff spot for the third straight season. But their record over the last 14 games doesn’t truly reflect how this team has played over this stretch.
There have been some close games, but the Isles have only scored 30 goals in those 14 games. Six of those 14 games saw New York score one or fewer goals. On the bright side, they have scored 12 goals in their last four games, but those games included two losses to the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
When the Islanders do win lately, it has been because of their dynamic goaltending tandem, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, and it might be all they need heading into the playoffs.
Varlamov has been the go-to guy all year for the Islanders, racking up 19 wins and seven shutouts in 34 games (33 starts) this season. He has compiled a stellar 2.02 goals-against average (GAA) and a .930 save percentage (SV%). In short, he is very hard to beat and is more than capable of stealing games during postseason play, something he did in the Toronto Bubble last summer.
A Semyon Varlamov Top 10 is always fun to watch. 👏 pic.twitter.com/j6kproTGgA
— NHL (@NHL) December 30, 2020
Sorokin didn’t have the best debut for the Islanders, but he bounced back really well. In 20 starts, Sorokin is 12-6-2 with three shutouts, a 2.22 GAA, and .917 SV%.
Whether the Islanders ride Varlamov through the playoffs or they use both goaltenders, it is safe to assume they shouldn’t give up a lot of goals, which come at a premium in postseason play.
For teams to make a run at the Stanley Cup, they need to have great goaltending, and the Islanders have the best coming out of the MassMutual East Division.
Although the Isles goalies won’t be able to win games by themselves, they can still carry the team like many goaltenders have in the past for Stanley Cup contenders such as Anton Khudobin on the 2019-20 Dallas Stars, Marc-Andre Fleury with the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season, Pekka Rinne with the Nashville Predators in 2017 and even looking back to Jonathan Quick with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. These goalies have sparked and carried teams to the Stanley Cup Finals, and Varlamov and Sorokin have proven they are capable of that same kind of greatness.
Yes, the Islanders are going to need to score goals, and there is some reason to believe that the offense could be coming with some recent outbursts.
All in all, though, New York’s goaltending is more than capable of helping the Islanders make a deep playoff run. It will just come down to how if the team can regain the Barry Trotz structure, and get back to playing Islander hockey.
Follow Ben on Twitter @BenMandell55