Islanders will ride with ‘sharp’ Semyon Varlamov during critical stretch drive

TAMPA, Fla. — The Islanders are going to ride the hot hand in goal down the stretch.

Which means that right now, it is Semyon Varlamov’s net.

“He looks really sharp,” coach Patrick Roy said after the Islanders practiced at Amalie Arena ahead of Saturday’s match against the Lightning. “I look at him today in the practice, he looks really sharp. He will play tomorrow.”

After Varlamov stopped 26 shots and kept the Islanders in a razor-tight 3-2 win over the Panthers on Thursday night, this was the only logical conclusion, even if Varlamov has not started consecutive games since Jan. 25-27.

The 35-year-old has gotten the Islanders at least a point in all four of his outings this month, achieving a .914 save percentage during that span.

Ilya Sorokin, by contrast, has an .894 save percentage in March and has lost six consecutive starts.

Semyon Varlamov has won back-to-back games in net for the Islanders. Getty Images

Over a much smaller sample of starts — and it is worth wondering whether Sorokin’s gigantic workload has something to do with his drop-off — Varlamov has, by any measure, outplayed last season’s Vezina finalist.

The contrast between Thursday night and Sorokin’s last few starts, in which he’s let in a couple of soft goals and hasn’t come up with the big saves the Islanders are used to getting from him, has lent some clarity to the situation.

“I think sometimes it’s good to have a bit of a break, find a way to get your confidence back in the practice, use the practice,” Roy said. “I thought Ilya had a really good practice today. I’m confident when he’s gonna be back in net, he’ll play a good game. Varly played really well [Thursday] and I think he deserves that start tomorrow, absolutely.”

Semyon Varlamov looks on during the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series.
Semyon Varlamov looks on during the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series. NHLI via Getty Images

Simon Holmstrom will be a healthy scratch for the third time in four games Saturday after sitting just once all season prior.

“Losing six games in a row, I don’t think anyone was happy with their game,” Holmstrom told The Post. “I still think I was out there competing every night and also creating some chances. It wasn’t terrible, but of course it can always get better.”

The Islanders haven’t won at Amalie Arena since Game 1 of the 2021 NHL semifinals.

Thanks to the COVID-induced schedule in 2020-21, that means their last regular-season win in the building came all the way back on Dec. 9, 2019.

Roy said he is not considering a change to the power-play units, which have converted just two of their last 32 chances following an 0-for-6 performance on Thursday against the Panthers.

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