Ilya Sorokin a ‘big part’ of why short-handed Islanders continue to win
It was less than two weeks ago when the Islanders’ season was in danger of collapsing.
They were in the midst of a three-game losing streak and Mathew Barzal’s name was added to their growing list of injured players.
Since then, the Islanders have won two-of-three, with both victories coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins to leapfrog them in the standings, and a big part of that was goalie Ilya Sorokin.
The 27-year-old made 40 and 44 saves in those wins over the Pens, and that All-Star level defense continued Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets, as he made 25 saves to help New York capture a 2-1 win.
“It’s pretty obvious how elite he is,” Hudson Fasching said of Sorokin after the game. “I mean, I don’t know what else to say. He’s unbelievable and it’s fun to watch, really. There’s so many times I’m sitting on the bench, and I just think… Wow I’m really glad he’s on our team”
Fasching, who got three shots on goal in the contest, is one of many Islanders seeing ice time due to the mounting injuries to the team. But the team is aware that they have to take care of business by any means necessary with whomever is on the ice.
“We did what we had to do to come up with the two points and a lot of those at this time of year doesn’t matter how you do it. We took care of business,” Zach Parise said. “Everyone is recognizing that we are short a lot of bodies and everyone is committed to doing what you have to do to win the game.”
“We all got to step up,” Simon Holmstrom, who scored the game-winning goal, said. “It’s very important at this time now and we’ve just got to keep going.”
Sebastian Aho scored his fifth goal of the season in the first period on a four-on-four situation before the Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers tied it with a power-play goal in the second. Holmstrom netted his winner in the 10th minute of the third period, but coach Lane Lambert pointed to the team’s defense in that final frame, especially on the penalty kill, as a big reason for their victory.
“The penalty kill in the third period was very, very good,” he said. “I thought the guys did a great job of getting in shot lanes, deterring shots … we took away passing lanes. It wasn’t so much, I guess Ilyia as much as it was the guys and the structure of it, but he made a huge save, so when he’s required to do that, he does it.”
While the first-year Islanders coach didn’t want to give all the credit for the win to his netminder, when asked why he felt his team was “gelling” over the last few games, he had to recognize Sorokin’s recent performances.
“Well, it starts with our goaltender, that’s a big part of it,” Lambert explained. “But the guys are sticking to the structure and I thought we did a very good job in the third period of making sure we stayed above a team that is very dynamic and dangerous in terms of their offensive abilities. So it’s just to buy into what we have to do in order to win hockey games.”
As of Wednesday, the Islanders remain fourth in the Metropolitan Division with 67 points, four points ahead of the Penguins, and five points ahead of the Washington Capitals.
With Barzal out week-to-week with a lower-body injury and forwards Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau not having resumed skating, the Islanders will likely have to lean on Sorokin to keep their playoff hopes from slipping.
Source: Yahoo Sports