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Long Distance Update: Sorokin, CSKA bounced from KHL playoffs

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A great regular season followed by a weird playoffs followed by... who knows?

Gold Medal - 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship
This guy
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

News travels slow out of the KHL, even in modern Blade Runner-esque times. But here’s a quick update on a guy we’re all interested in, even if it’s not for the immediate future.

On Saturday night in Yaroslavl, CSKA lost to Lokomotiv 3-1 in Game 6 of their second round playoff series. The loss ended the season for the defending Western Conference champions and one of their goalies, Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin.

Sorokin played a career-high 39 games during the regular season, compiling a 25-7-6 record with a .929 save percentage and five shutouts. In 2016, he was named the KHL’s Goalie of Year, after going 17-7-4 with 10 shutouts and a .953 save percentage. Although he may have enjoyed a second straight standout regular season, Sorokin had on a wild ride in the playoffs, going from starter to scratch to would-be savior before it was over.

He was in net for every game of CSKA’s first round sweep of Jokerit, giving up just six total goals and sealing the series with a 25-save, 1-0 shutout that was won in overtime. The performance was reminiscent of his run last season, when he went 15-5 to lead his team to the Gagarin Cup finals, where they lost to Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

Starting the second round against Lokomotiv, Sorokin made 20 saves in a 4-2 Game 1 victory but took the loss in Game 2, making 23 saves on 27 shots in a 4-3 defeat. Sorokin wasn’t great in the game, giving up a couple of questionable goals including this one in the first period (although, in fairness, his own defenseman, Daniil Apalkov, essentially tipped the puck through Sorokin’s five hole).

Later in the same game, Lokomotiv took a 4-2 lead on this floater from Andrei Loktionov, where the whole team looked out of sync.

After that, coach Dmitry Kvartalnov had seen enough and decided to start former Oilers and Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth, who helped win Game 3, 2-1. Fasth started again in Game 4 and made 32 saves in a 5-1 Lokomotiv blowout, then took the loss in Game 5, making just 16 saves on 18 shots in a 2-1 defeat.

Here’s where it gets really weird. In Game 5, Sorokin didn’t even dress as the back-up. I’ve tried to figure out why but was unsuccessful. It doesn’t appear he was ill or otherwise hurt, so for whatever reason, Kvartalnov made the call to have Andrei Filonenko, who played one game all season, be Fasth’s understudy for the game.

With the series in the balance, CSKA went back to Sorokin in Game 6, but couldn’t pull out the win. He made 23 saves in the 3-1 loss and finished the playoffs with a 5-2 record and .916 save percentage.

Okay, okay, okay. Dude had a bad week. Happens to everybody, and it sucks when it happens in the playoffs.

So, when is he coming to North America? Good question.

Sorokin’s latest contract extension with CSKA runs out in 2018. In his recent Reddit AMA, Newsday’s Arthur Staple said the goalie could have a shot at being on the Russian team for this year’s IIHF World Championships and has the goods to be in the NHL whenever the Islanders can get him over here. Reading the KHL is a mysterious practice (as noted above), so it looks like the 21-year-old is most likely still a year away from maybe potentially wearing blue-and-orange.

Unless something changes over this summer, of course.

Update: Staple still reads LHH.