There are the supposed blinders that players and coaches say they put on, and then, usually, there is reality.
Case in point: Lane Lambert, speaking to reporters minutes after the Islanders beat the Capitals in a shootout on Wednesday night, already knew that the Panthers had beaten the Maple Leafs.
But then there is Ilya Sorokin, whose ability to tune out everything else truly seems to be the stuff of a sports psychologist’s dream.
Here was his response following the 2-1 win in Washington, asked about his excitement to play in the postseason:
“I don’t think about this. Just one game. No overthinking. Just one day and control what you can control. That’s it.”
And what about the way the Islanders are playing, having turned their season around over the past eight weeks?
“I don’t know,” Sorokin said. “I’m not focused on the team.”
That is where this goes from cliche to reality, because it is generally not considered PR-speak to say you don’t focus on the team.
For Sorokin, though, it is who he is at his core and what has helped turn him into such a weapon for the Islanders.
The ability to focus solely on himself and seemingly never get fazed is directly behind Sorokin’s ascension to stardom.
Rarely has that been more evident than his recent run of play, over which Sorokin is 8-1-1 in his last 10 games despite rarely getting a day off, starting 34 of 44 games since Dec. 18.
With six games left in the season, Sorokin is likely to play in 60 total games.
“I’ve never been a goalie, but I think that you have to block everything out and just worry and focus on what you’re doing,” Lambert said. “You’re on the ice for 60, 65 minutes. Whatever it might be on a given night. I think he does a real good job of that and it’s helped him have success.
Pierre Engvall’s second-period goal against Darcy Kuemper marked the fourth time in four career shots against Kuemper that Engvall had scored.
Kuemper did make a save on Engvall later in the game.
The Islanders returned to New York and will practice Friday before their game in Tampa on Saturday.
The Lightning beat the Isles 5-3 on Oct. 22 in the only game between the teams this season.