New York Islanders Need Semyon Varlamov to Step up His Game

Semyon Varlamov

Through three games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, one thing is for sure: the New York Islanders’ goaltending needs to be much better. Through the regular season, the islanders had one of the best one-two punches in the league. Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin backstopped the Islanders to the fourth seed in the East Division. At times that duo had the Islanders atop the division. However, that success has not translated into postseason success. And while the Islanders won Game 1 in overtime because of Sorokin’s play, but ever since the goaltending change back to Varlamov, the Islanders have not been getting the timely save. If the Islanders want to level the series in Game 4 on Saturday, they need better goaltending. Or else this could be a real short series.

New York Islanders Need More From Semyon Varlamov

Entering the series, there were question marks surrounding the health of Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov did not finish the regular season due to an injury. Therefore rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin was thrust into action. For his first playoff start, Sorokin did not play poorly. Sorokin did not lose them the game that’s for sure. Sorokin stopped 39 of 42 shots in his first game in the playoffs. Everyone knew Sorokin had the ability to play well, but against the Penguins team that lit him up during the regular season after he shut them out, Sorokin showed he could hang with the best. He made timely saves and the goals he gave up were on good shots.

So it was crazy to see the Islanders go back to Varlamov in Game 2 up 1-0 in the series. Game 2 was Varlamov’s first game back since his injury. He let in two bad goals to start the game one to Bryan Rust and the eventual game-winner to Jeff Carter. After that, he settled in and gave the Islanders a chance to win. But in Game 3, Varlamov did not look like himself. Varlamov did not react to three of the Penguins’ goals. The first goal by Kris Letang shoots the puck from the point and Varlamov reacts late and the puck is past him. The second goal by Carter was a great shot, but the goal by Jason Zucker to make it 3-1 Penguins in Game 3, Varlamov reacted late. And even the second goal by Carter on the power play, Varlamov wants to have that one back.

If Islanders want to go deep in the playoffs and get by the Penguins, they need better goaltending from their number one guy in Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders can ill-afford to play rotating goalies as the series continues. They need their number one guy to just that a number one. Varlamov was the reason why the Islanders went deep last season. He will be the reason they don’t get out of the first round. It is now or never. You have to wonder entering Game 4, how short of a leash will Varlamov have?

Islanders Need More From Their Special Teams

A way for the generate offence for the Islanders is on the power play. In Game 1, the Islanders’ only power play was a four-minute double minor to Jeff Carter. Unfortunately, the Islanders did not capitalize on that scoring chance. If the Islanders were able to score on the power play there is a potential that the game does not go to overtime.  In the end, no harm no foul when Palmieri scored his second goal of Game 1 to win it in overtime. But the ugly trend of not scoring with man advantage carried into Games 2 and 3. The Islanders had a chance to tie Game 2 late with a power-play chance, but could not convert. So through two games, the Islanders for 0-for-3 on the man advantage.

In Game 3, the Islanders finally broke through on the power play thanks to a goal from Anthony Beauvillier. But in the series is 1-for-6 with the man advantage. However, if the Islanders want to make this a long series, they must score with the man advantage. Especially in crucial times of the games. This will be one of the ways besides getting better goaltending the Islanders can get back into the series.

And it is just not the power play, the penalty kill has to be better as well. And it starts with the goalie. They say your best penalty killer is your goalie. One the 4-3 goal by Jeff Carter in Game 3, that is a shot Semyon Varlamov must stop. The Islanders had all the momentum after tying the game. They needed a save there. Instead, Varlamov put them behind the eight-ball again. Granted, the Penguins’ power play has not been much better, but still, they are getting the timely goal.

Depth Scoring Will Decide This Series

One thing is for sure through three games, depth scoring will be the reason why the Islanders or Penguins win this series. Just look at the goal scorers for each team. The Penguins have gotten goals from Cater (2), Brandon Tanev (1), Jason Zucker (1), Kasperi Kapanen (1), Frederick Gaudreau (1). On the Islanders side of things Palmieri (2), Pageau (1), Scott Mayfield (1), Cal Clutterbuck (1). You see having depth at every position matters because you never know who will play the role of the hero come playoff time. Yes, the big players will get their points, but it is those role players who help a team win this time of year. And right now the Penguins depth scoring is outperforming the Islanders depth scoring.

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