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It’s official: The Leafs have an Ilya Samsonov problem

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Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
5 months ago
For all intents and purposes, Ilya Samsonov is broken.
And unfortunately – due to cap reasons – there’s not really much Brad Treliving and company can do about it —at least right now.
For the second time this season, the 26-year-old Russian netminder was chased from the Maple Leafs’ crease by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night. And just like October 21st at Amalie Arena in Tampa, he was sporting a ball cap by the time the horn rang for the first intermission.
Simply put, Samsonov’s lost all confidence in his game, and unfortunately, visibly, it’s eating him alive. The man’s broken. He’s extremely fragile.
Fortunately, Toronto’s beyond blessed to have Joseph Woll. Like he did in the first meeting against the Lightning, the rookie kept the team in the game as they mounted yet another ferocious comeback. Personally, I wouldn’t keep going to that well —but that’s just me.
There is a silver lining to this whole situation, however. Over the span of the next few weeks, Samsonov will get a chance to get plenty of practice time, something he direly needs to get his game back on track here. Due to their upcoming Global Series trip to Sweden, the Leafs are scheduled to play just five times over the course of the next 17 days. They have Ottawa Wednesday night before a rare back-to-back on home ice Friday and Saturday against Calgary and Vancouver, respectively. Then, they’ll head overseas for a game against Detroit and a game against Minnesota.
Translation: That should be music to the ears of Leafs goaltending coach Curtis Sanford. It goes without saying but he has a lot of work ahead of him to try and fix this disaster.
Meantime, of those upcoming contests I mentioned, I could see Woll starting four of them. If it were up to me, I would put Samsonov in there against the low-scoring Flames on Friday night and hope for the best. He should be fine. That’s the best spot to get Woll a rest.
Any way you slice it, the Leafs need to launch a full-blown operation to get Ilya Samsonov looking more like the guy we saw rise to prominence in 2022-23 and less like a beer league goalie.
Let the games begin.

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