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Ilya Samsonov needs to bounce back against the Buffalo Sabres

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs head down the QEW to take on the Buffalo Sabres and goaltender Ilya Samsonov is expected to get the start. Needless to say, Samsonov needs a big performance against the Sabres or things could get very complicated in the Leafs’ crease.
Toronto is dealing with Joseph Woll’s ankle sprain, which appears will keep him sidelined for at least another couple of weeks. With Martin Jones recalled and besides some bad bounces last game against the New York Rangers, Jones has looked extremely solid. He’s a veteran, he’s won in big moments and he’s shown from his decorated resume he can be the type of goaltender who can flip a depth chart upside down. If Samsonov doesn’t start getting results, Jones could very well push Samsonov out of the door.
Over the course of Samsonov’s last five starts, he’s won twice, including one shutout, however he posted a .889 Sv.% and let 16 goals pass. On the season the Russian netminder sits with a bizarre 5-1-5 record, along with a 3.51 GAA and .878 Sv.%. Frankly, not good enough and with pressures from Woll, taking over as the starter early on this year and with Jones now on the NHL roster, it’s becoming interesting times for Samsonov in Toronto.
GM Brad Treliving has been candid about his appetite to improve the Leafs blue line and likely add another experienced forward to their team’s bottom six. Treliving doesn’t have a ton of cap space to work with, even with the LTIR being activated so Samsonov could quickly become an option to move in a trade package to allow some more flexibility financially. What if a team like Chicago, San Jose or Anaheim see Samsonov as an option for next season? Or there’s also the New Jersey Devils who are reportedly in the market for goaltending depth, would they take a flyer on Samsonov, who did post a career season in 2022-23, including 27 wins.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed from the Leafs netminder to start this season is, he’s not tracking pucks like he used to. Last season he seemed much calmer and more poised in net and was ahead of the play, following pucks to shooters and tracking lanes, meanwhile this season there’s been a ton of instances where the pucks in the back of the net before he realizes the shot was taken or the puck goes whizzing by the net and he doesn’t react until it hits the boards.
It’s been an interesting season for Samsonov to say the least, and now, with a veteran like Jones in the mix, things are getting a little more complicated then first expected. Samsonov needs a strong performance against the Sabres, to help build back some of his confidence and show the coaching staff and his team in front of him, that he can be a reliable netminder when the games matter the most.
Toronto heads to Buffalo and then to Columbus on Saturday night. If Samsonov regains his form against the Sabres, look for him to get another start against the Blue Jackets before the Christmas break and hopefully be on his way to sustained positive results.
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