Joseph Woll deserves another look at being named Game 1 starter

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
Lately it’s been the Ilya Samsonov reunion tour around the Toronto Maple Leafs’ crease, and rightfully so. Samsonov has been lights out since being ‘reset’, however the Leafs can’t forget about Joseph Woll and this week he’ll see some action, with sights set on Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Woll hasn’t played since March 7 when he let in four against the Boston Bruins. He hasn’t won a game since February 29th against the Arizona Coyotes. The 25-year-old has taken a back seat to Samsonov, and it’s going to be important for the coaching staff to not only keep him engaged, but also give him enough reps to find his game, as it shouldn’t be in stone yet who is starting for the Maple Leafs come Game 1 of the playoffs.
It’s hard to argue with how Keefe has handled the crease this season considering all the injury troubles and inconsistencies throughout the year. Martin Jones came in and provided the spark when needed, Woll’s had his moments, and lately it’s been the ‘Sammy Show’. However, if you look back to last season and compare some numbers, are the Leafs comfortable riding Samsonov into round one? The Russian netminder posted a .898 Sv.% in nine appearances last postseason, meanwhile Woll played to a .915 in his four appearances. And if we put the wins and losses aside this season, Woll leads the Maple Leafs with a .911 Sv.%, meanwhile despite all of Samsonov’s recent success, he’s still sitting at a .889 Sv.%; good for 65th in the NHL, among goalies with at least 10 appearances. Needless to say, there’s still lots to be decided.

Leafs Need to Challenge Woll Down the Stretch

With 16 games left on the schedule, and three more sets of back-to-backs, there’s no doubt both goalies are going to see some action. Samsonov is the more experienced NHL netminder, there’s no doubt about that, but is he this season’s  best option to win a playoff series? At this point, very hard to say.
Keefe needs to instill more of a tandem approach these last 16 games and give Woll every opportunity to win the net back. Using both goalies in the playoffs isn’t the best recipe for success and frankly hasn’t worked very well during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the end, it has to come down to a mix of riding the hot hand and figuring out who the team plays better in front of. Of course, injuries could creep into the picture again, and with both goalies’ histories of being banged up, it’s more likely than unlikely. That’s why it’s important to keep both of them as fresh as possible. Jones can be the third-stringer and may see one game of the remaining 16, but even that’s a stretch.
Keefe would be wise to give Woll at least half of the starts and try and divide as close to 50/50 as possible. While Toronto doesn’t play Boston again this season, they do have two games against both the Panthers and Lightning and these are the ones to circle where Keefe should split them up evenly between Samsonov and Woll.

Woll’s Record vs Bruins Worrisome

The only thing not necessarily working in Woll’s favor to start Game 1 of the playoffs is the fact he’s 0-2-1 career against the Bruins and has posted a .865 Sv.%. Samsonov, on the other hand, is 1-2-2 lifetime against the B’s, and in his last two appearances has posted a .939 and a .950. Nobody said it was going to be easy.
With his ankle injury in mind, which put him on the shelve for several weeks, Woll has won just once since the end of November. It’s going to be vital for the Leafs have to both netminders as fresh as possible and their confidence elevated to new heights because when Keefe makes up his mind on Game 1 starter and if things end up going south in a hurry after Game 1 and 2, there’s little doubt he’ll make a change for Game 3.
Toronto has a ton of question marks surrounding their roster with less than a month until the end of the season. It’s not ideal. What is ideal, is having two hot goalies to choose from when the playoffs begin. Keefe needs to control what he can control, and give both goalies equal playing time throughout the next 16 games.

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