“It’s huge for me, for the team” Ilya Samsonov shows signs of life in first win since December 9

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
5 months ago
He only made 16 saves, but Sunday night’s win over the Seattle Kraken was the biggest of the season for Ilya Samsonov.
It’s been a painful fall from grace for the 26-year-old goaltender, who’s back with the Leafs for his second season after signing a one-year deal to bet on himself last season. After a year that saw him finish in various top-ten goaltending categories and help the Leafs to their first playoff series win since 2004, Samsonov essentially fell off the face of the earth in terms of all the things he did well the year before. 
His win over the Kraken isn’t going to single-handedly repair his stat line on the season to date, featuring a record of 6-3-6 with a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.69 and a save percentage (SV%) of .866, but it could do wonders in terms of repairing his confidence – something he’ll need if he wants to achieve the former. 
The Leafs played a pretty strong game defensively, as seen in the limited amount of shots he had to face, but the quality of saves was spectacular. He bailed them out on a few different occasions, including one instance where he stretched out to save a goal and stopped a pair of rebounds that followed. Oftentimes, all the Leafs need from their goaltender is a chance to win the game, or at least stay in it, and Samsonov provided them with exactly that last night.
“I always get some tough moments, yeah, probably tougher in my career, but I just want to say thank you to everybody who support me.” Samsonov told Shawn McKenzie of Sportsnet after the game. “I feel I need it for this team, it’s huge, everybody helped….this is why we have such a good team, because everybody supports each other.” 
With Joseph Woll not expected back until after the all-star break and veteran Martin Jones starting to show signs of regression (he’s allowed at least three goals in each of his last five games), Samsonov’s resurgence would be coming at a great time for the Leafs. While he didn’t earn the win against the Detroit Red Wings in his official return to action, he’s looked much more like himself in each of the two games he’s played since returning. 
His performance against Seattle earned him the championship belt, given to the most deserving player after each Leafs win. Matthews, who earned the belt after Thursday night’s win in Calgary after scoring a hat trick, passed it to Samsonov last night. 
“Obviously pretty well deserved, I don’t think it was like a charity gift.” Matthews told reporters after the game. “It’s been tough for him the last couple weeks and I think tonight was a really good step in the right direction for him, the way he battled for us, the way he competed. Really proud of him and the whole group, it was great to see.”
While Samsonov deserves his flowers for his performance, he’s already forgotten about it.
The Leafs don’t play again until Wednesday night, where they’ll bang out both of their tilts against the surging Winnipeg Jets in a span of four days, but I’d expect Samsonov to get another start as they look to reward him for a strong bounceback and give Jones some rest alike. They’ll face Winnipeg at home on Wednesday and then on the road on Saturday before the all-star break.

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