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Knee Jerk Reaction: Samsonov’s worst game of the year clouds over 5-goal comeback

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Photo credit:© Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
2 months ago
I don’t want to be cliche and use the classic “box of chocolates” reference to describe your average Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, but it’s hard to come up with anything else at this point. Especially when the Leafs go from scraping out a point against the New York Islanders to pumping the East-leading New York Rangers, to allowing 5 goals to the Columbus Blue Jackets only to mount an impossible 5-goal third period comeback and end up losing in overtime. 
My original knee jerk to this was that the Leafs once again came away with a point they were undoubtedly not deserving of, but it’s impossible not to respect the way they fought back in the third period. Mitch Marner scored arguably the filthiest goal of his career and Auston Matthews put the team on his back in the final two minutes, scoring two goals 40 seconds apart to get the Leafs into the extra frame. Sure, they played bad enough to the point where they were being booed off the ice to close out the second period, but they probably had no business pulling that comeback off considering it was their fourth game in six days with the flu running rampant through the dressing room. 
The one player I can’t give a pass for today, though, is Ilya Samsonov. For as much as the teams did him absolutely no favours in the first 40 minutes, you can peg each of goals #3, #4, and #5 as ones that he should have stopped. The third was a fluke bank shot that only found its way past him because he wasn’t hugging his post, and the fourth and fifth both seemed to do directly through him. It was hands down his worst game of the season, not including the ones against Tampa when he was pulled this season.
Samsonov’s numbers on the season have been reminiscent of what the Leafs got from Petr Mrazek in 2021-22. There was evidence from last season that Samsonov could perform better when there was less pressure coming from within the crease, so to say that his two most recent starts have been disappointing would be an understatement. He shut the door against Nashville on Saturday in a much-needed confidence-boosting game, then proceeded to allow ten goals on his next 64 shots faced over two starts. He can’t buy a stretch of consistency right now, and it seems like the Leafs might be needing to lean on Martin Jones more often than expected, which…isn’t great.

Other thoughts: 

  • It’s no secret that Ryan Reaves’ contract and lack of performance this season has been a discussion point, but that didn’t make it any easier watching him injure his knee (?) early in the game after buckling along the boards. He had to be helped off the ice and appeared to stumble or maybe fall while he was heading down the tunnel. There’s nothing about the extent of the injury yet, but from the video and reaction alone, it didn’t look like a short term thing.
  • Matthews, I mean what do you even say about the guy at this point? That’s ten points in his last four games to bring him up to 35 points in 27 games on the year. He single handedly put the team on his back in the final minute of that game and dragged them to overtime. Everybody in the core has their moments, but his ability to pull something out of nothing is second to none. 
  • I have to give Mitch Marner his flowers for his goal tonight. It’s not going to be looked back on fondly because of the state of the game, but between-the-legs goals are some of the hardest to pull off in hockey and he made it look easy. Fun highlight if nothing else.
What’s your knee jerk reaction to tonight’s game? Let us know below.

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