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Ilya Samsonov returns to the crease as Maple Leafs look to end mini losing streak

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Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
1 month ago
I don’t think anybody could’ve predicted the current Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie situation before the season started. The signing of Martin Jones in early August seemed to be a low-key addition that would add a veteran presence in the crease and added insurance. But nobody thought he would play 14 games by the middle of January, yet here we are.
The 34-year-old netminder has controlled Toronto’s crease for a while with Joseph Woll still sidelined with a high-ankle sprain and Ilya Samsonov’s struggles between the pipes. Well, tonight, on the second half of a back-to-back, Jones gets a rest, meaning that Samsonov, who was recalled from the Toronto Marlies (AHL), will return to the net and make his first start since December 29th against the Columbus Blue Jackets (6-5 overtime loss).
After a standout season in 2022-23 with Toronto, Samsonov has done a complete 180. His 27-10-5 record with a 2.33 goals against average and .919 save percentage from last season almost seems fake, given his numbers this year and his numbers in Washington before signing in Toronto. I think it’s safe to say last year’s numbers were an outlier, and this might be who Samsonov is.
In 89 games with the Capitals (2019-20 to 2021-22), Samsonov went 52-22-8, but had a 2.81 goals-against average, which is good, but also a .901 save percentage, which is nowhere near what he put up last year with the Maple Leafs. This season, he has a measly record of 5-2-6 and a brutal goals-against average (3.94) and save percentage (.862). To me, those are unplayable numbers. If your goalie is closer to an .850 save percentage than he is to a .900 save percentage, he doesn’t have it this season.
The 26-year-old has struggled so much in the net that he has allowed in four or more goals in five of his last starts (six vs CBJ, five vs BUF, six vs CBJ, four vs NYI and four vs CHI). I’m starting to think about what the plan will be if he has another stinker of a game. If he allows four or more goals tonight, or maybe four or more goals in his next start, and the Maple Leafs don’t win because the deficit is too big of a hole, what do they do with him? Taking him to arbitration is looking like it was the right move from this front office.

Pregame details:

Maple Leafs’ lineup:

Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander
Pontus Holmberg – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake McCabe – Timothy Liljegren
Simon Benoit – Conor Timmins
One lineup note: Sheldon Keefe confirmed to the media early today that Mark Giordano will not play tonight, and Conor Timmins will be inserted into the lineup to replace him. He also mentioned that there is one more injury they are waiting for before determining another lineup change ahead of tonight’s matchup.

Red Wings’ lineup:

David Perron – Dylan Larkin – Lucas Raymond
Alex DeBrincat – J.T. Compher – Patrick Kane
Michael Rasmussen – Andrew Copp – Christian Fischer
Robby Fabbri – Joe Veleno – Daniel Sprong
Shayne Gostisbehere  – Moritz Seider
Ben Chiarot – Jeff Petry
Olli Maatta – Justin Holl

Projected goalies:

Ilya Samsonov (TOR) vs James Reimer (DET)

Broadcast:

Sportsnet, 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)
(Projected lines from DailyFaceoff.com)

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