Islanders could turn to Semyon Varlamov for third consecutive start

Semyon Varlamov has not started three consecutive games in exactly two years, but there could be a chance for him to do so on Monday night in Philadelphia.

Islanders coach Patrick Roy had not yet made a decision on who would start in goal against the Flyers in a massive four-point game when he spoke after Saturday’s loss to the Lightning, but if he believes Varlamov can handle the workload, there was nothing in the goaltender’s play during the 4-1 loss to suggest he is losing the hot hand.

“He was outstanding,” Roy said of Varlamov, who finished the night with 36 saves behind often-shoddy defensive zone coverage. “In the first period, we gave up a lot of chances. He kept us in the game. Even in the second period, we didn’t give up that many chances but he kept us in the game, made those big saves.”

Semyon Varlamov made 36 saves during the Islanders’ loss to the Lightning on Saturday. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

With Ilya Sorokin having struggled over his last handful of starts, going back to him in a must-win situation could be a risk.

Though Sorokin’s ceiling is undoubtedly among the highest in the league, Varlamov has been the better goalie lately, appearing to be more aggressive in his crease and giving up fewer rebounds.

He is also simply stopping the puck at a higher rate, with a .916 save percentage over his last five starts compared to .875 for Sorokin.

“I hope Varly feels good about himself,” Roy said. “You want to give your team a chance to win, so I don’t think he was affected [by losing]. He should not be affected by this.”

Semyon Varlamov has outplayed Ilya Sorokin recently and could get a third consecutive start Monday.
Semyon Varlamov has outplayed Ilya Sorokin recently and could get a third consecutive start Monday. USA TODAY Sports

Roy liked what he saw on Sunday after switching his defense pairs around, with Alexander Romanov returning to the left of Noah Dobson, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock reuniting and Mike Reilly skating with Robert Bortuzzo.

“Noah and Rommy played really well the last 40 minutes,” he said. “It was good to have Pelly and Pully together.”

The back-to-back that starts on Monday against the Flyers is the last of the season for the Islanders.

They will face Chicago on Tuesday having yet to win in their first nine games on the second end of a back-to-back this season.

The Blackhawks have already beaten them this season, doing so in overtime on Jan. 19 in Lane Lambert’s final game as head coach.

The Islanders did not hold practice on Sunday as they flew to Philadelphia.

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