‘I feel like sh*t’: Ilya Samsonov vows to fight through early season struggles
Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
By Alex Hobson1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are having one of their better starts to the season in recent memory, going 5-2-0 through the first seven games of the year and reaching five wins in October for the first time since 2019. Some of the brighter points to start the year include the strong performances from John Tavares and William Nylander, and Joseph Woll’s electric couple of starts.
The other side of that coin, however, is a forgettable start for 2022-23 starting goalie Ilya Samsonov. He carries a record of 2-1-0 to start the season, with an ugly 4.34 goals-against average (GAA) and a save percentage (SV%) of .811. His last start came last Saturday, when he allowed three goals on four shots against the Tampa Bay Lightning and was subsequently pulled for Woll. The Maple Leafs would go on to win that game, 4-3.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his start on Saturday against the Nashville Predators, Samsonov discussed having hit a low point in his confidence and what he needed to do to get back to better place.
“If I say I feel great, it’s not the truth. I feel like sh*t. But, this is a piece of my life, and I’m a guy who’s going to be fighting through this. I will be fighting every day, just not my time these past three games. But I know I am better goalie than this.”
The former first-round pick credited his teammates for supporting him through his tough go, specifically thanking them for “saving his ass” on Saturday night in Tampa.
“I like it here because you know, everyone supports, the game against Tampa, you know, guys saved my ass, and we won that game, so I want to just say thank you.”
When asked what he needs to do to get better, Samsonov said it all comes down to the little things.
“If you get some bad bounces or you don’t feel great, you need to start with the small details, just the simple stuff, just think about stopping the puck. Doesn’t matter how.”
The Russian netminder also showed his appreciation for the aforementioned Woll, who’s done just about everything expected of him in the wake of Samsonov’s struggles, to the tune of a .961 SV% and a 1.33 GAA.
“He’s unbelievable, we need to be happy because we have a great goalie who’s played a good three games for us, yeah, that’s really important for the team. Good competition for me, we need to push each other, and we’re both ready for this”.
Leafs fans are rightfully throwing their support behind Woll of late, given his hot streak, but it’s important to remember that Samsonov has done far more good than bad in Toronto. It’s understandable that fans are on edge, given they’ve had to sit through stretches where goalies, whether that be Petr Mrazek, Jack Campbell, or Matt Murray, can’t stop a puck. But in the end, he’s had a bad stretch of four games and is capable of much more than what he’s shown. If the Leafs want to make a deep run this year, they’re going to need both of their goalies, and you get that by ensuring both are up to game speed.
Samsonov also has the support of head coach Sheldon Keefe, who said that sometimes, goaltenders just need a little reminder of what they’re capable of.
“The things that he did last season and the success that he had, whether that’s the type of regular season he had, or to be there as the goalie that helped us win a playoff run, these are significant accomplishments that he’s had and it’s a huge step in his career. So, latch onto that, and have that as the foundation of your confidence, and just get to work and clear your head.”
The Maple Leafs will close out their road trip on Saturday against the Nashville Predators, facing off against old friends Ryan O’Reilly and Luke Schenn. Samsonov will be between the pipes for the first time since getting pulled in Tampa Bay, and he’s got the support of both his teammates and his head coach to get things back on track.
“It’s a mental game right now for him. He has the ability, he’s shown that.”.
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