It was just over a year ago, on April 15, 2022. Barry Trotz, then in his last miles as head coach of the New York Islanders, was speaking to the media at the Bell Center in preparation for a duel against the Canadian.
Like Kevin Bacon before a city council, Trotz delivered an impassioned plea. It was not for the dance practice, but rather for Ilya Sorokin as a candidate for the Vézina trophy. “He probably won’t get a lot of votes because we’re going to miss the playoffs. Everyone in the New York area is talking about Igor Shesterkin, but our guy is on his level. »
These words of Trotz hardly circulated that morning, because a few hours earlier, the great Mike Bossy left us. But we have to admit that Trotz was right. Sorokin was ranked sixth in the ballot for the Vezina, despite his seven shutouts, and the more time passes, the more he earns the right to be mentioned in the same sentence as Shesterkin, his New York rival.
On Tuesday, Sorokin was imperial in the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The team now led by Lane Lambert thus avoided elimination; the Hurricanes lead the series 3-2 and Game 6 is Friday at Long Island.
The Russian goalkeeper stopped 34 of 36 shots, but above all, he was ready to start this game in time, unlike his teammates. From the first minute, a chance to score from Jesper Fast. Two minutes later, a breakaway from Jordan Staal, who rounded Mathew Barzal as if he were a cone. But halfway through the first period, Pierre Engvall scored and it was 1-0 for the Islanders, when it very well could have been 2-0 for the Hurricanes.
In the end, it took a deflected shot and a perfect game to beat him, but for the rest, Sorokin held on. Without his third-period comeback control, Rod Brind’Amour’s men could have applied even more pressure.
Whatever he accomplishes in this series, Sorokin can’t change anything on the Vezina ballot, since the votes are already tallied, and Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins will be hard to dismiss. But this first experience as a starting goaltender in the playoffs will certainly help him make a name for himself and be less often forgotten.
The New Yorkers may not have started the game in time, but then they kicked their intensity up a notch to hang on in this series.
As proof, the 22 shots that the skaters blocked, in order to reduce the workload of their goalkeeper. Zach Parisé, the dean of the group, distinguished himself by blocking five pucks, including one that seemed to hurt particularly badly.
Otherwise, the sequence where the puck remained stuck in a corner for some 30 seconds, during a numerical disadvantage of the Islanders at the end of the game, will also be remembered. Bo Horvat doesn’t break anything in this series, but he and Scott Mayfield have spent precious seconds here. Another sequence reflecting the hard work of the Islanders in the defensive zone.
These details are important to clarify, because the goaltenders who played for Barry Trotz often had their best years under his guidance, and Lambert was Trotz’s assistant from 2011 until last year, accompanying him to Nashville. , Washington and Long Island.
The two therefore go hand in hand. It doesn’t always give the best show, like in this fifth game, by the way.
Speaking of running out of fuel, the Hurricanes will also have to see to it. Offensively, the most threatening line was veteran Paul Stastny. Poor Sebastian Aho is doing what he can, even scoring his third goal of the series, but he’s clearly targeted. When it’s not the Islanders who bully him, it’s the puck that finds its way to his face, like on the second base of the game.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, in command of the second line, got an assist on Aho’s goal. But after five games, he has a single point and is -5. Since joining the Hurricanes, he has 3 assists, no goals, and is -9 in 19 playoff games. Here is one whose offensive awakening could help Carolina continue on its way.