Hurricanes’ Evgeny Kuznetsov defends Maple Leafs’ Samsonov, calls out Toronto media

Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
1 month ago
To say it’s been an up-and-down season for Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov in 2023-24 would be an understatement. At one point, it looked like he had played his last game for the Leafs after a horrendous run between October and mid-January. But, a trip through waivers and a week away from the team focusing on getting his mental game back on track seems to be just what the doctor ordered for the Russian netminder. In 16 games since his return to the NHL, he has a record of 13-3-0 complemented by a 2.35 goals-against average (GAA) and a .912 save percentage (SV%). He’s continued to get the bulk of the starts even since the return of netminder Joseph Woll from injury.
With the Carolina Hurricanes in town this weekend, newly-acquired Cane Evgeny Kuznetsov was asked about the up-and-down season by his fellow countryman and former teammate. He didn’t mince words about how the media approached the goaltender’s struggles when he was at his lowest point.
Kuznetsov and Samsonov were teammates for three years with the Washington Capitals from 2019-2022. The former was just traded to the Hurricanes in the middle of his 11th season with the Capitals for a third-round pick. The trade comes a month after he entered the NHL Player Assistance program, offering him the chance at a fresh start with a new team a week after being cleared from the program. The latter is in his second season with the Maple Leafs after having a breakout season that saw him finish in the NHL’s top ten for both the GAA and SV% categories.
Kuznetsov also offered up further insight on Samsonov’s season, citing his ability to dial up his game when it matters and respond positively to pressure.
Samsonov’s turnaround has been night and day compared to the start of his season, where his somewhat passable 5-2-6 record was backed up by a then-league-worst .862 SV% at the time and a GAA that almost clipped the 4-goal mark. For all the hardships he’s faced this season, his ceiling has made him worth keeping around all season. After all, he was the goaltender to get the Leafs out of the first round to break a 19-year curse. No matter how bad your stats might look on paper, if you show up in a series with that magnitude and you can say you did something no other goalie has been able to do in those 19 years, you’ve got an edge up on the players around you.
Samsonov gave Leafs’ faithful a scare on Saturday morning after he seemed to take a shot in an awkward spot and had to leave the ice with assistance from trainers. It proved to be a nothing incident, with Samsonov getting the start that night.
The Maple Leafs and Hurricanes will face off one more time this season after Saturday when the Leafs visit Raleigh on March 24.

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