Islanders Shine in Back-to-Back Shutout Wins

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 19: New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) blocks a shot during a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Islanders on October 19, 2021 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Islanders posted back-to-back shutout victories over the Arizona Coyotes and the Vegas Golden Knights over the weekend. The Islanders have been struggling to find their feet early in the season. Only six games into the season and Matt Martin, Semyon Varlamov, Anders Lee, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have all missed games due to injury. Coach Barry Trotz has also not been happy with the level of play, calling out his players multiple times to the media this year.

All the criticism and critiques went away this weekend, as the Islanders played their best hockey of the season. Weather the storm on defense, get a lead, then play 200-foot hockey. Against the Coyotes and Golden Knights, the Islanders got into their groove and controlled the game. Every forward line did their job on offense and defense, while Ilya Sorokin made 68 saves over two games without allowing a goal. Looking back on this weekend, let’s analyze both Islander wins.

Arizona Coyotes

The Islanders beat the Coyotes, who remain winless this season. Saturday’s game could serve as a turning point for the year. The Coyotes were held to 26 shots and struggled to enter the Islanders’ side of the ice. Players came out in force, as every line contributed.

The first period was pretty even. The Islanders were on a flurry to start the game, but Coyotes’ goalie Karel Vejmelka held his own. The pace of the game slowed down and became more dump and chase. Both teams forecheck waited for a mistake to jump on. Cal Clutterbuck scored with 3:28 left in the first. He had a two-on-one with linemate Casey Cizikas and shot short-side past Vejmelka.

The second period was more of the same. The Islanders controlled the flow of the game and eventually scored in the last minute of the period. Brock Nelson tipped a shot from Bailey, who was in the slot. Nelson and Bailey were part of the second line that was called out following the overtime loss in Columbus last Thursday.

Kyle Palmieri put the puck into the net with 9:20 remaining in the third period. The goal was ultimately called off because another player blinded the referee and whistled the play dead. The puck was still loose under Vejmelka, but the call on the ice was a frozen puck.

Less than 30 seconds later, Anthony Beauvillier scored on a breakaway, making the score 3-0. Beauvillier was streaking up the opposite wing while the Islanders pushed the puck up the boards. When Jakob Chychrun pinched towards the boars, Nelson lifted the puck to Beauviller, who deeked Vejmelka.

Vegas Golden Knights

Sunday’s game in Vegas was less of a smothering from the Isles. Sorokin logged 42 saves against Vegas, stopping multiple chances from in front of the net. The Islanders’ defense left Sorokin out to dry, but Vegas couldn’t beat him. If not for Sorokin, the Islanders might lose this game.

The defense was way too slow in this game. The Islanders couldn’t clear rebounds away from the front of the net, resulting in many dangerous chances for Vegas. Sorokin stopped winger Keegan Kolesar twice in a one-on-one situation, where Kolesar was alone in front of the net. The Islanders have the luck of quality goaltending on their side, as Sorokin saved both chances.

Josh Bailey scored the first goal two minutes into the first period. A Vegas defender blocked J.G. Pageau’s shot, then Lehner’s pad deflected the puck. Bailey skated to the net and stickhandled around Lehner’s pad. Bailey was initially credited with the Nelson goal during Saturday’s game against the Coyotes, but the NHL official scorers ruled the picked banked off Nelson before entering the net.

Matt Barzal scored the second goal of the game 7:33 into the third period. Barzal weaved through Golden Night defenders before he was pick-pocketed at the blue line. Bailey was trailing Barzal and kept the puck onside and winning the battle against the boards. Barzal shot from a weird angle but got enough lift to float over the shoulder of Lehner.

From there, the Islanders did a great job of containing the puck through the third period. With two minutes left in the game, the Golden Knights pulled Lehner, and an onslaught of shots came Sorokin’s way. Sorokin stood on his head, making a gutsy last-second save on Shea Theodore.

The Verdict

The Islanders took a turn for the better this weekend with back-to-back shutout wins. Ilya Sorokin is back in shutdown mode, and the offense has found a way to convert their chances. In both games, the defense pinched more, causing them to struggle when out of position but created more offense. These two wins are statement wins for the doubters of this team. While the Coyotes are winless through five games, the Golden Knights are a Stanley Cup contender. Preventing two teams from scoring in consecutive nights with the same goaltender and lineup should restore that the Islanders can be contenders again this year.

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