Down 1-0 in their second-round series against the Bruins, Islanders coach Barry Trotz decided not to outright name his starting goaltender for Game 2 at TD Garden.
The Monday mind-games from Trotz comes two days after Ilya Sorokin allowed four goals on 39 shots in Game 1, with rebounds aplenty throughout the evening, and with established veteran Semyon Varlamov waiting in the wings as a potential option.
“We know that he’s gonna play a Russian goaltender tonight, so we’ve got that narrowed down,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, borrowing a joke made by Trotz quite a bit, quipped. “After that, we’re not sure.”
Abandoning the 25-year-old Sorokin at the first sign of postseason danger may be a bit over-the-top (Saturday’s performance dropped Sorokin’s postseason save percentage from .943 down to a still-excellent .934), but it’s Varlamov’s 2021 success against the Bruins that may make this an interesting call for the Isles.
In net for seven starts against the Bruins this season, the 33-year-old Varlamov posted a 5-1-0 record and .943 save percentage. That’s a strong enough sample to almost make you consider Varlamov’s 2021 postseason struggles — two losses and a .903 save percentage in two starts against Pittsburgh — out the window.
Especially when weighing a potential 0-2 hole against a 1-1 split through two games.
But no matter the Islanders’ call, the Bruins plan on sticking to their own script.
“I don’t think it changes much, honestly,” Cassidy said of a potential switch from Sorokin to Varlamov from the B’s point of view. “We obviously have a scouting report on each goalie’s tendencies.
“For us, there’s a couple of tenets we live by: Force him to find pucks in traffic, so get to the front of the net. Force him to control rebounds, so when you have a chance to play off the shot, make sure you put it in a spot where it’s not an easy glove save for him. He’s gotta fight to control it, and we’ll go work from there. Those are things we try to do with every goaltender: Take away his eyes and force him to control rebounds with the type of puck you’re putting on net. That won’t change.”
The Bruins enter this contest averaging the third-most goals per game (3.5) this postseason, while their power play has clicked at a 33.3 percent clip, which is also the third-best mark among all postseason clubs.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.