NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 13: A first period shot by Jesper Fast #17 of the New York Rangers gets past Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on January 13, 2020 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Islanders 6-2.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov has looked better in his last two starts, but they should keep the 50/50 split going. 

On Tuesday, the New York Islanders came up with a gem of a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Things looked scary when the Isles blew a 3-0 lead, which they had on just nine shots, but they were able to do enough to get the win.

One of the best parts about this game was goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s performance.

After a terrible start to 2020, it was a relief for fans and the players to see the goalie come up with 35 saves. Yes, he is a big reason why the team blew the lead, after giving up three-even strength goals, but he got it together quickly to prevent the Flyers from scoring any further goals.

But one start doesn’t make all well in life. Even though Varlamov played a decent game on Tuesday, the Islanders should continue with the goaltending rotation they’ve been using lately.

Even in the Islanders’ 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, Varlamov looked better than he has in some time. He made 27 saves and it’s hard to blame the loss on him when the offense was only able to score one goal.

Varlamov has really had it rough in 2020. He’s an unimpressive 3-6-1 over his first 10 starts of the new year. Even with Tuesday’s win, he has allowed three goals in his last six starts and five in two of them. He has not looked nearly as sharp as he did earlier in the season. Overall, Varlamov is 17-9-4 on the season with a GAA of 2.59 and .915 save percentage.

Yes, it is nice that the Islanders’ No. 1 goalie is getting back on track, but the team is at a critical point in the year. They have not been playing the best of hockey since December. In 27 games leading up to Jan. 21, the Islanders were an average 12-12-3. From Jan. 11-19, they went 1-3-2.

Things have definitely begun to turn around for the Isles, though, who are 4-1-1 over their last six games. However, the schedule for the remainder of the season is unkind to the Islanders and it’s scheduled to begin with a crucial yet dangerous five-game road trip out west.

For that reason, head coach Barry Trotz needs to keep this goaltending rotation going. The Islanders are blessed to have Thomas Greiss, who is one of the finest back-up goaltenders in the league. In 27 games, the 34-year-old is boasting a 2.55 GAA and .920 save percentage. In his last five games, Greiss has three regulation wins, an overtime loss and a shootout loss (conceding just 13 goals).

Yes, it would be nice for the Islanders to be able to start their $20-million goalie more often than not, but the fact remains that neither goalie has been spectacular, and this rotation seems to be working.

During their five-game road trip, the Islanders will be facing the Nashville Predators, Las Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. All of these teams are either currently in a playoff spot or very close. The Islanders must win as many of these games as possible, especially since their situation is tough right now.

With 72 points, they are third in the Metro but have a lot to worry about with the Columbus Blue Jackets (70 points) and Flyers (69 points) hot on their tail. A disastrous road trip could have terrible implications for the Islanders, who are in the very competitive Eastern Conference.

To make matters worse, injuries have been piling up for the Islanders. They recently lost defenseman Adam Pelech for the rest of the season, and that loss was followed by longterm injuries to fourth-line forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, respectively.

The Islanders need to do as well as they can to at least get to the trade deadline relatively unscathed. They have one of the best defenses in the league, so it would be a shame to have poor goaltending blow games for them.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Things aren’t optimal for the Islanders in net, but the team is playing much better as of late, and the Isles need to keep it up if they hope to finish out the year strong.

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