Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin watches during the third period of...

Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin watches during the third period of Game 3 of a first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 25, 2024. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

Practice was over, and all around him, reporters were asking teammates about the Islanders’ next season-on-the-brink playoff game, in Raleigh on Tuesday night.

But there was Ilya Sorokin on Monday, talking to a smaller group about a game four days earlier, one that he might take with him into the offseason.

Why was this noteworthy, given the immediate task was beating the Hurricanes in Game 5 to keep the season alive?

Because even though Semyon Varlamov is to start in goal on Tuesday, Sorokin remains the putative franchise goalie and a huge part of the near future, so his emotional and hockey health are essential.

The good news for the Islanders is that, by all appearances, Sorokin is just fine, even after the Game 3 debacle that could cost the Islanders the series.

“It’s history,” he said of the 3-2 loss, in which coach Patrick Roy gave him his first start of the series, only to yank him after he gave up his third goal 7:14 into the second period.

“It’s a new day. The sun is going up. Had a video review with both goalie coaches and continue working.”

What did Sorokin and his coaches see in that video? “I want it to be our secret with the goalie coach,” he said, smiling. “It’s nothing new.”

Sorokin’s departure was a stunning development and looked even worse when Varlamov spelled him and did not allow a goal. Then Varlamov won Game 4, 3-2, in double overtime.

But Varlamov is 36 and Sorokin is 28 and set to start a new eight-year, $66 million contract next season.

So whether the Islanders lose Tuesday or win the Stanley Cup without him, the team owes him money through 2032. He matters . . . a lot.

Upon being removed on Thursday night, Sorokin first walked down the tunnel toward the dressing room, then reappeared and crouched in the tunnel before someone gave him a chair. He never took off his helmet.

He was back on the bench for the third period.

What was he thinking about while in the tunnel? “Just thinking about goals,” he said. “That’s it. Nothing else.”

Sorokin insists that he will have no trouble putting behind him Game 3 and his other struggles this season.

“New day,” he said, “What was in past, it stays in past. You can’t change this. You can just focus on day-to-day and continue working. That’s it.”

While Sorokin did not want to go into detail about the technical aspects of his game, he said it all is fixable.

“It’s just certain things you do every day and you should control those things,” he said. “It’s hand position and body position. So it’s all about position.”

The fact that Sorokin’s head coach, Patrick Roy, is one of the best goaltenders of all time is an underlying theme of this dynamic.

But Sorokin said he mostly has worked with the goalie coaches, not Roy. “Patrick is head coach,” he said. “He thinks about game system, team system.”

Fair enough. But Roy still can relate to what Sorokin is going through more than most head coaches can.

Asked about Sorokin’s state of mind, Roy recalled winning the Cup as a rookie with Montreal in 1986, then landing on the bench the next season.

“You have some ups, you have some downs,” Roy said. “It’s how you bounce back. Ilya is a smart guy. He knows. He didn’t forget how to play in goal because he’s having maybe a tougher time.

“I know he’s working hard in practice. So if something happens [to Varlamov] I know we can count on him. I have no doubt in my mind. Hey, it happened to me, it happened to him and you know what, we grow from this. We become better because of those situations.”

Captain Anders Lee said of Sorokin, “We’ve all had nights where things don’t go our way or you feel like you took the brunt of it. We didn’t lose that game due to Ilya. We lost that game as a team.

“He’s a part of the fabric of the hockey team and the main reason we’ve had success on nights throughout our years with him. So not worried about Ilya at all.”

Far more important, Sorokin does not seem to be worried about himself.

“You have short memory,” he said. “If I think a long time about all my goals, I’ll be crazy.”


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