Devils left wing Miles Wood crashes into Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov...

Devils left wing Miles Wood crashes into Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov during the first period of an NHL game on Friday in Newark, N.J. Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

BOSTON — Former Islanders coach Barry Trotz would often joke over the previous two seasons there would be a Russian goalie in net when asked to name his starter.

And both Trotz and his successor, Lane Lambert, have often said they really couldn’t go wrong when deciding between Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov. But, starting last season, the nod more frequently has gone to Sorokin.

So it was noteworthy Lambert opted to start Varlamov against the NHL-leading Bruins on Tuesday night at TD Garden as the Islanders opened a season-long five-game road trip. Varlamov has been the sharper goalie over the past two weeks.

“You need both goalies and that’s the luxury we have,” Lambert said. “It’s such a long season. It’s a demanding season. Them both playing is going to help us in the long run.”

Lambert, like Trotz, has shown he will give a goalie multiple starts in a row if he’s playing well and the schedule allows. Director of goaltending Mitch Korn and goalie coach Piero Greco, holdovers from Trotz’s staff, have a large say in that.

Varlamov entered Monday having won four of his previous five starts, compiling a 2.42 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. He made 25 saves in Friday’s 6-4 road victory over the Devils, one of the Islanders’ best wins this season.

Sorokin, who won nine of 11 decisions between Oct. 26-Nov. 25, entered Monday having lost his last four starts while compiling a 3.04 GAA and an .889 save percentage after making 26 saves in Saturday night’s 3-0 loss to the Hurricanes at UBS Arena. The Islanders were outscored 17-6 in those games.

“We haven’t given him a lot of support in terms of goal-scoring,” Lambert said. “That’s probably the biggest difference.”

Overall, Sorokin was 10-9-0 with a 2.36 GAA, a .925 save percentage and two shutouts entering Monday while Varlamov was 7-3-0 with a 2.67 GAA, a .916 save percentage and one shutout. Last season, Sorokin played 52 games and Varlamov appeared in 31.

But Varlamov, in the final season of a four-year, $20 million deal, played the bulk of the games as the Islanders reached the NHL semifinals in both 2020, with Thomas Greiss as his goaltending partner, and 2021 in Sorokin’s rookie season. The latter playoff run included a six-game win over the Bruins in the second round and Varlamov entered Monday with a 12-7-3 career record against them in the regular season with a 2.36 GAA, a .926 save percentage and three shutouts.

Varlamov, 34, has never said a negative word about playing fewer games and has developed a strong working relationship and friendship with Sorokin, who came to North America not knowing English. Sorokin, 27, is in the second season of a three-year, $12 million deal.

“We’ve been lucky to have a few tandems like that where it’s been good and there’s no battle,” Brock Nelson said. “They push each other. Maybe being both from a similar background from Russia and good friends, they speak Russian to each other and Romy [defenseman Alexander Romanov]. They’re a good pair for each other as well and it helps us.”

At times, they’ve been called the NHL’s best goalie tandem.

“It’s just an honor but it’s hard to talk about, to be honest with you,” Varlamov said about being ranked the top tandem. “The season will show who’s the best, who’s the worst. People talk about it. We hear some things. But we don’t really care. We care about winning. We just want this team to be able to win more games and we just try to help. That’s all our focus.”

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