Semyon Varlamov

Semyon Varlamov has regained his elite form during the New York Islanders’ push towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a reunion with former coach Patrick Roy has helped the goalie translate his strong advanced metrics into an expanded role.

The Islanders have won seven of their past games with Varlamov starting six times in that stretch over younger teammate Ilya Sorokin and winning five times. Varlamov is 7-1-1 with a .928 save percentage and one shutout in his past nine games and has a better save percentage (.916 to .908) and goals-against average (2.66 to 3.02) than Sorokin this season and also more shutouts (three in 27 games) despite playing far fewer games than his teammate (two in 54).

Per NHL EDGE stats, Varlamov ranks fourth in the League in high-danger save percentage (.836) behind Jacob Markstrom (.856) of the Calgary Flames, Thatcher Demko (.842) of the Vancouver Canucks and Connor Ingram (.838) of the Arizona Coyotes. Varlamov also has the fifth-highest percentage of games with greater than a .900 save percentage this season (65.4).

The Islanders made a coaching change Jan. 20, firing Lane Lambert and replacing him with Roy, who coached Varlamov with the Colorado Avalanche from 2013-14 to 2015-16. Roy, who won the Jack Adams Award with Colorado in 2014 – the same season Varlamov was a Vezina Trophy finalist and the Avalanche made the playoffs, is 18-12-4 through 34 games with New York. Among goalies who have played at least 25 games this season, Varlamov is tied for sixth in overall save percentage (.916) this season.

Patrick Roy Islanders

Varlamov also thrived under former coach Barry Trotz, forming one of the best goalie duos in the NHL with Sorokin, who joined the Islanders in 2020-21. Under Trotz, New York reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2020 with Varlamov (11-7, .921, two shutouts in 20 games that postseason) and then the Stanley Cup Semifinals in 2021 with the Varlamov-Sorokin tandem, losing each time to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Islanders’ hopes of another deep playoff run may hinge on their goaltending considering they have the worst penalty kill percentage in the NHL (71.6). But, since March 1, New York has shown considerable improvement in shots on goal per game allowed (28.8 per game; tied for 11th fewest); the Islanders were previously allowing 33.9 per game from the start of the season to Feb. 29, second most in the NHL over that span behind only the San Jose Sharks (35.4).

New York is currently in the third spot in the Metropolitan Division standings, three points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins with three games remaining for each team. The Islanders, vying for one of the final two postseason spots in the Eastern Conference, are four points ahead of the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers.

Sorokin, who is expected to start when the Islanders visit the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN360, TVAS), leads the NHL in shutouts since entering the League (18) that season, and Varlamov is tied for fourth in the category (14). Varlamov was tied for the NHL lead in shutouts in 2020-21 (seven), and Sorokin led the League in the category last season (six).