UNIONDALE, NY — Ilya Sorokin celebrated with his New York Islanders teammates at the Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday after they qualified for the Stanley Cup second round.
And there could be other times to come. Sorokin may have surpassed Semyon Varlamov as Option # 1 and could start Game 1 of the second round series against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, SN360, TVAS).
The 25-year-old was selected by the Islanders in the third round (78th) of the 2014 NHL Draft, but he seemed content to play in his native Russia, where he set records in the Continental Hockey League. He won the Gagarin Cup with CSKA Moscow in 2019 and was named the KHL Playoff MVP, with a 16-4 record with a 1.20 goals-against average, save percentage of , 956 and five shutouts. His 16 shutouts are the most in KHL playoff history.
Sorokin finally agreed to come to North America last July and is thriving in the playoffs.
With 34 saves in a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the first round on Wednesday, Sorokin became the first Islanders goaltender to win each of their first four playoff games and the 10th goaltender in the l history of the NHL to do so. . Boston Bruins goaltender Tiny Thompson holds the record, winning his first seven games in 1929-30.
“My friends sent me pictures and messages from Islanders fans,” Sorokin said ahead of the season start in January. “Now I feel that I [owe] fans and have to work hard for them to deserve this excitement.
“It’s the best league in the world. Every guy dreams of playing in the NHL. “
Video: NYI @ PIT, Gm1: Sorokin stretches out to fly Blueger ahead
The third-seeded MassMutual East Bruins present another tall order for Sorokin after scoring 16 goals in five games against the second-seeded Washington Capitals in the first round.
But after a 48-save performance in a 3-2 double-overtime victory over the Penguins on Monday, the fourth-seeded Islanders allowed the fourth-seeded Islanders to wrap up the series at home two nights later. Sorokin’s teammates said they have full confidence the rookie should coach Barry Trotz continue to mount the hot hand.
Sorokin allowed nine goals on 159 shots against Pittsburgh.
“His composure and his athleticism in passing to make big saves, how fast he does it, is impressive,” said the forward. Jordan Eberle mentionned. “It’s not easy to come from Russia with the biggest rink, the angles are very different. But he seems to have settled in and he’s just playing amazing. “
Trotz said it didn’t take long to understand why there was so much hype around Sorokin, who went 13-6-3 with a 2.17 save percentage. of .918 and three shutouts in 22 games (21 starts) in the regular season. as a safeguard of Varlamov.
“I’m going to say this about Ilya, he’s very calm,” Trotz said. ” Everyone loves him. He’s one of those guys who is very low maintenance. I know this: he takes care of his own game. He tends to play, but he doesn’t watch a lot of other games in the league.
“I think he’s a very smart young man. He’s got a lot of smiles on his face so you know he has a good sense of humor around guys. But he’s really relaxed. I think he’s very confident in who he is as a goalkeeper and also as a person. He’s a really low maintenance guy. “
Video: Top New York vs Boston Match Games
How long Sorokin can keep the starter position will depend on his game. Trotz repeatedly praised his two goalkeepers during the first round, even after Varlamov gave up the opening goals in Games 2 and 3 and lost every start.
Varlamov was 19-11-4 with a GAA of 2.04 and save percentage of .929 in 36 regular season games (35 starts) and tied with the Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer for the NHL lead with seven shutouts.
Sorokin was 0-1-1 in two games (one start) against the Bruins in the regular season; Varlamov was 5-1-0.
“He’s had a few good games here,” Trotz said. “He’s had a good season for us, but you can hang in there a bit [all the praise] because you have to do it over time and that will be the test. “
So far, Sorokin has passed with flying colors. The bond he first forged with his new teammates last July when he joined them in Toronto, the central Eastern Conference city for the first two rounds of the 2020 playoffs, was the start of what the Islanders hope for a long partnership.
“He’s an unreal guy”, center Casey Cizikas mentionned. “Seeing him grow during the season, become more comfortable, he has a personality for him. He’s funny in the locker room and the guys love him. “
They will love him even more if he can continue this adventure that took seven years to begin. So far, it seems to have been worth the wait.
“In every playoff game, you have to have a high level of focus, a high level of focus and be 100% ready,” Sorokin said. “… I’m just enjoying the game and enjoying the moment.”