Islanders head coach Barry Trotz admitted it was always the plan, after his team lost Game 1 of the second-round series against the Bruins behind rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin, to come back to veteran Semyon Varlamov in net.
It was a no-brainer. The Islanders have maintained they wouldn’t be where they are this season without Varlamov’s career year, which included a league-leading seven shutouts. The 33-year-old netminder delivered in the Islanders’ series-tying overtime win in Boston on Monday, with 39 saves on 42 shots.
But when the top three finalists for the Vezina Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender — were announced Tuesday morning, Varlamov was officially out of the running. Trotz confessed that he was disappointed.
“I’m biased a little bit because I see Varly from a day-in and day-out aspect,” Trotz said. “He’s probably been our MVP this year. I can’t challenge the three finalists, [the Lightning’s Andrei] Vasilevskiy has been outstanding, [the Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre] Fleury has been outstanding, I’ve had [the Avalanche’s] Philipp Grubauer and he’s been outstanding. I’m biased because I get to see Varly and I know how much he means to us in a very competitive division this year.
“We’re a team that I wouldn’t say has a lot of firepower compared to some of those other teams. The margin for error is a lot less, so that’s why I’m a little biased on that with Varly because he has been our MVP this year.”
On the other hand, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has proven to be a much bigger challenge for the Islanders than the Penguins’ Tristan Jarry was in Round 1. Rask has turned aside 55 of the 61 shots he has faced through the first two games of the series, and apparently he has been battling some nagging injuries.
Rask said on WEEI last week that his health is “not as good as I’d want it to be.”
Bruns coach Bruce Cassidy said he expects Rask, who missed roughly a month of the regular season with a suspected back injury, will be ready to go Thursday for Game 3.
Oliver Wahlstrom, who missed a third straight game Monday with a lower-body injury sustained in the third period of Game 5 against the Penguins, is “a possibility” for Game 3 at Nassau Coliseum, according to Trotz.
The rookie winger has been skating, but is still considered “day-to-day.”
The Bruins’ Jake DeBrusk was fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for cross-checking defenseman Scott Mayfield at 13:04 of the third period in Game 2.