Islanders exposing Ilya Sorokin to heavy workloads: ‘There’s too many shots coming in’

Ilya Sorokin Islanders
New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin stops a shot during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

ELMONT, N.Y. — Normally as even-keeled as they come, Ilya Sorokin admitted that he had a busy night on Thursday against the Ottawa Senators.

“It was a lot of work for me and our defensemen,” the Islanders’ superstar netminder said following a 45-save effort in a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators which included eight penalty kills in which Sorokin turned away 15-of-16 power-play shots from the opposition.

This has become an alarming trend for Lane Lambert’s team, which has allowed at least 35 shots on Sorokin’s goal in each of his last three starts. The New Jersey Devils landed 39 shots on goal in a 5-4 overtime win on Oct. 20 before the Colorado Avalanche unloaded 37 shots on Oct. 24 — Sorokin making 32 saves before the Avs added two empty-netters in a 7-4 New York loss.

It’s just the second time in the 28-year-old’s NHL career that he has faced 35 or more shots in three consecutive games (4/15-4/19/22). The 123 shots he’s faced over his last three games are the second-most he’s ever seen in such a span, just one behind the 124 he came up against from Feb. 14-20, 2022. 

“Yes, I am [concerned]. No question,” Lambert said of the number of shots that are landing on Sorokin’s net. “There’s too many shots coming in.”

Noah Dobson Islanders Avalanche
New York Islanders’ Noah Dobson (8) and goaltender Ilya Sorokin watch as Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates toward the bench after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Senators continued the trend of putting bodies in front of Sorokin’s net in hopes of limiting his vision. It appears to be the best way to beat the Vezina Trophy hopeful, who has already had numerous save-of-the-year candidates in just five outings this season. Both of Ottawa’s goals came from long-range shots that he admitted he couldn’t see.

“It’s two goals and good traffic,” Sorokin said. “I tried to find the puck. Maybe I should be a little more aggressive in the net and in the traffic. I didn’t see the puck on those two goals. I tried to find it, but I couldn’t.”

For a thin Islanders defense that has seen its top four post a lot of minutes with Scott Mayfield out injured, the strategy is proving troublesome — though Sorokin isn’t placing an iota of pressure on them to help him address the opposition’s strategy.

“It’s hard because their forwards play smart,” Sorokin said. “It’s hard for our defensemen if there’s two or three people. It’s very hard. So I should find the puck and be a little bit more active.”

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