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Knee Jerk Reaction: Folks, Ilya Samsonov might be back

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Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
1 month ago
Rock bottom for a starting goaltender in today’s NHL is getting sent down to the AHL, especially when you’re in a position where your team needs you to be at your best to play to their strengths. It happened to Jack Campbell early this season, and ironically enough, happened to Ilya Samsonov just a few weeks ago. 
Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. It all depends on how you take it as a goalie. And judging by the last two games, it would appear Samsonov took it the right way. 
The Leafs’ tilt against the Winnipeg Jets came as advertised. Despite them missing two of their top forwards in Mark Scheifele and Gabriel Vilardi, they lived up to their title as the best defensive team in the league with or without their biggest weapons. The Leafs had five (!) power plays on the night and couldn’t cash in on any of them, and with each power play that came and went without a goal, it felt increasingly likely Winnipeg was going to get the next one and finally break open the scoring. 
But one man stood between the Jets and that destination, and that was Ilya Samsonov. 
Three days after making the most of only 16 shots and one goal against, he put on his second clinic in a row with a 32-save shutout against Winnipeg. He stopped the basic ones and bailed the team out on a number of occasions, including this 2-on-0 on one of many poor power play efforts from the Leafs. He stood tall when the Jets finally started getting some luck on the penalty front go their way, and he overall looked much closer to the goaltender that helped get the Leafs to the second round for the first time in nearly 20 years last season. 
Overall, the Leafs wrapped it up in due time and got Samsonov the win that he deserved much more than the team as a unit did. For as much as it looked like he didn’t have much of a path back to the crease when Martin Jones started to heat up, he clawed his way back and is here to show people that he’s got more to give. If you’re a fan of the team, I don’t see how you don’t root for the guy here. The team is better off when Samsonov and Joseph Woll are at their best, and having both of them on the same page isn’t something we’ve quite seen yet. 
One final note outside of Samsonov – Nick Robertson played his best game of the season that he didn’t score in tonight. His cheeky swat of the puck to keep the puck in the offensive zone eventually led to the Auston Matthews overtime winner, and he’s proving that he should not be a lineup casualty any longer. Speaking of Matthews, he was offered the belt by Samsonov but promptly gave it right back to him. Classy move by a leader. 
Oh, did I mention the Leafs haven’t been shut out since November 21, 2021? They kept that streak going tonight, too. Fun stuff.
What’s your knee-jerk reaction to tonight’s game? Let us know below.

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