A 5-4 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils did little to ease the tension surrounding the New York Islanders as they entered their mandatory bye week.
While the two points snapped a five-game losing streak, questions surrounding the team’s porous defense and slacking goaltending has made the playoffs seem like a far more difficult destination to reach.
Despite giving four goals, Jaroslav Halak came up with a rare, big-time performance as he made 42 stops against the Devils on Sunday as he continues to cement his place as the Islanders’ No. 1 goalie.
Entering the season, New York was expected to platoon Halak and Thomas Greiss at the position, riding whichever goalie was the hottest at the time. The problem is, both have struggled mightily.
Even with his big outing on Sunday, Halak is still just 12-12-2 with a 3.24 goals against average and .904 save percentage. Those last two figures would be career worsts for the 32-year-old over a full season should that pace continue.
Greiss hasn’t provided much better of an option as he is also on pace for career worsts, sporting a 3.89 goals against average and a .882 save percentage.
Even with the NHL’s trade deadline coming up on Feb. 26, it’s unlikely the Islanders would make a deal for a goalie but rather ride out the season with Halak and Greiss while waiting for the kids to arrive.
That’s right, the Islanders have a pair of stud goaltenders in their pipeline that could completely turn the position around in the coming years:
Before we get into Sorokin, it’s important to note that Islanders fans might not see him until at least the 2020-21 season after he extended his contract with CSKA Moscow of the KHL in Russia until 2020.
Granted, there could be out clauses within his deal that we don’t know about or he could just be waiting for the right time to come over rather than coming over next year and working in the AHL.
But the 22-year-old has already developed into a stalwart in Russia, winning the 2015-16 goaltender of the year award in the KHL during his first full season with CSKA Moscow after posting a monstrous .953 save percentage and 1.06 goals against average.
While his numbers have dipped, only naturally, after such a breakout year, Sorokin is still one of the best goalies in Russia. He recently took home KHL goalie of the week honors after stopping 61 of 62 shots over three games.
Islanders fans will be able to get an in-depth look at him during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang as he will be in the running for the Olympic team’s (Russia was banned from the 2018 Games) starting job.
This is an athletic goaltender with an impressive 6-foot-2 frame who has drawn comparisons to Columbus Blue Jackets netminder and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
Despite not being with the team, Soderstrom has encountered some Islanders luck after injuring his shoulder that required surgery. While it was originally reported that it was a season-ending procedure, the 21-year-old is expected to return to HV71 Jonkoping in Sweden.
It remains to be seen what that will do to his estimated time of arrival to the Islanders and NHL. With Halak set to hit free agency after the 2017-18 season, Soderstrom was expected by some to at least come over to the United States if not join the NHL roster to provide another option besides Greiss.
The problem was he saw a significant downturn in his play this season in the SHL. In 12 games, Soderstrom held a 2.76 goals against average and .893 save percentage. Last year those numbers were far more favorable at 1.34 and .943.
He is an imposing figure between the pipes at 6-foot-4, yet plays the position conservatively, never overcommitting while rarely being caught out of position. He must work on using his size to his advantage and play more toward the top of the crease to make his large stature look even bigger, but he should be a viable starting option for the Islanders when he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL.