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Ilya Sorokin is Getting the Job Done During a Tough Islanders Season

Through all the ups and downs of the Islanders' season, one thing has remained a constant: Ilya Sorokin is playing fantastic hockey.
Ilya Sorokin

Sometimes, life isn't fair.

This was supposed to be the New York Islanders season. After two years of exceeding expectations and making the final four, the team finds itself well out of playoff contention at the moment, and a lot of it is due to factors outside of their control. 

Currently, the team sits just under 20 points behind Pittsburgh for the fourth spot in the Metropolitan Division, but just three points behind Columbus for fifth -- and with eight fewer games than the New York Rangers. It's not completely a done deal, but the Islanders don't have much wiggle room to work with.

With a 7-2-1 record in the past 10 games, they've actually been one of the better teams as of late. That's quite the turnaround for a team that spent the first 13 games playing on the road, only to have a major COVID-19 breakthrough knock out most of the team -- yet they still kept playing.

So, the fanbase needs its small victories to make up for a season full of "what ifs". And the play of starting goalie Ilya Sorokin can definitely be chalked up to a W, even if his work might all just go to waste.

Sorokin has been magnificent for the Islanders, holding a 10-7-0 record with three shutouts and a base save percentage of .927. Among all goalies with at least 10 games played, Sorokin's .937 save percentage at 5-on-5 is tied for second with Thatcher Demko, with only Vezina Trophy favorite Igor Shesterkin looking better with a .940. Sorokin has an impressive 9.68 goals-saved-above-average (fourth) and is ninth with a .861 high-danger save percentage, but just 13 points below Shesterkin in first.

All things considered, that's a hell of a performance for a goalie playing on a team so far out of the playoff picture right now. But it's not surprising, either. Sorokin had an impressive rookie season with a 13-6-3 record with three shutouts as a rookie before splitting the playoffs with Semyon Varlamov. Before that, Sorokin managed one of the most impressive CVs in KHL history and was typically been a menacing force with Russia's national team.  

Going back to Sorokin's numbers this season, it's not crazy to think he'll get some Vezina Trophy consideration later this year. Sure, it looks like Igor Shesterkin's award to lose at this point, but Sorokin's play has given the New York area two great goaltenders with a long history of playing together with Russia's national team to watch for the next decade. 

It was only a matter of time until he made his value as a No. 1 in the NHL totally clear. Varlamov has resorted to the backup this season, and while his numbers have taken a bit of a dip this year, a lot of that can be attributed to the Islanders' awful stretch that saw them lose 11 consecutive games in November. But it's clear it's Sorokin's net now, and for the future, as was the plan when he signed prior to the 2020-21 season.

Sorokin has had his fair share of stolen games for the Islanders this year and he rarely has an off night that directly results in a loss. At 26 years old, Sorokin is still young and healthy enough to secure the starter's crease and give the Islanders a fighting chance for years to come. Besides, this is a club most penned as a potential Stanley Cup favorite. That shouldn't change next year, and, who knows? If they somehow rally for a post-season berth this year, you definitely can't count them out. When at full speed, they're a tough team.

Just look at the recent results if you need proof. And Sorokin can take a lot of credit for that.

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