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Knee Jerk Reaction: Samsonov sinks the Leafs again

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Photo credit:© Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Richard
1 month ago
A lot of things went right for the Leafs when they faced off against the Blue Jackets on Friday night, but another shaky outing from Ilya Samsonov between the pipes ultimately cost them a point as they fell to Columbus in overtime by a score of 6-5.
Samsonov’s struggles this season have been well-documented, but the Leafs have been left with little choice but to continue giving him opportunities to find his game with Joseph Woll on the shelf. To the team’s credit, they came out and had their netminder’s back with an impressive effort in the first period that saw them outshoot the Jackets 15-4 while blocking six more shot attempts in the process. The lone blip came on a stumble from Timothy Liljegren that Cole Sillinger to find an opening in the slot where he made no mistake to tie the game after Mitch Marner had opened the scoring early in the period.
Unlike Samsonov’s last start against Buffalo when the rest of the group appeared to sag after he allowed a questionable goal, the Leafs kept pushing, and Auston Matthews potted his league-leading 29th goal less than two minutes later to send the Leafs to the intermission with a 2-1 lead. Nick Robertson extended the lead to 3-1 early in the second period, but just when it looked like the Leafs might run away with this one, Samsonov was once again unable to come up with a stop for his club. Undeterred, the Leafs pressed on, and William Nylander restored the two-goal lead with a dart of a shot on the power play.
In a familiar refrain, the lead would again be short-lived after another shot seeped through Samsonov with the Jackets on a 4-on-3 man advantage before Kent Johnson brought the Jackets back to even just a couple of shifts later. Once again, however, the Leafs’ big guns responded as John Tavares redirected a Nylander point shot on the power play to give the Leafs a 5-4 lead heading into the third period.
Despite scoring five and limiting Columbus to just 11 shots on goal through two periods, the Leafs found themselves clinging to a one-goal lead with the Blue Jackets pushing the pace in the final frame. Samsonov battled early and made a couple of solid stops, but he was unable to shut the door, and Adam Fantilli knotted it up at 5-5 with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation. Sure, it was an impressive individual effort from the rookie, but it was a play like so many others this season where the Leafs just needed Samsonov to make a save, and he couldn’t get the job done.
The Leafs had a couple of chances in overtime before a breakdown off a defensive zone faceoff left Johnny Gaudreau all alone with Samsonov at his mercy to end the game, but it never should have gotten to that point. Yes, Samsonov made a handful of decent stops throughout the course of the game, and he had no chance on a couple of the Columbus goals, but the bottom line is that his inability to keep the puck out of the net sunk the Leafs once again.
After allowing six goals on just 21 shots on Friday, Ilya Samsonov now owns a 3.94 GAA and a .862 SV% through 15 games this season – the worst numbers in the league among qualified goaltenders and nowhere near good enough to be competitive on a consistent basis, even for an explosive offensive team like the Leafs.
The Leafs potted five goals, including one each from the core four forwards, while putting together a solid defensive performance, and it still wasn’t enough to come away with two points against one of the NHL’s basement dwellers. No one wants to kick anyone while they’re down, but it’s difficult to argue that this loss is on anyone other than the goaltender. That has been the case far too often this season, and one has to wonder how many more chances Samsonov is going to get.
 
Statistics from NHL.com

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