Samsonov struggling isn’t ideal, but don’t read too much into it

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
13 days ago
Having absolute confidence in the Maple Leafs heading into the playoffs wouldn’t feel natural. The team has had varying levels of success heading into the post season over the past eight years and the results have largely been the same and very rarely has that involved not blaming the goaltender once things get rolling.
Simply put, Samsonov hasn’t picked the best time to remind us that he’s not perfect. There wasn’t anyone actually thinking that of course and that’s why Martin Jones was kept around past the trade deadline and why a lot of people don’t see Matt Murray’s conditioning assignment as just an opportunity to get in some work before next season. The inconsistent results from Joseph Woll are also in line with what the Leafs have received from Samsonov in the past couple of outings, so there is plenty of reason to expect a quantity vs. quality approach to the Leafs goal situation this postseason. And that’s fine. As long as the Leafs continue to score.
This could even be Samsonov trying something different. After all, last season Samsonov’s worst save percentage in his last three regular season games was .939 and he followed that up with letting in 6 goals in Game 1 of the playoffs.
Whether it is Samsonov struggling, the Leafs defensively checking out in the final games of the season and not wanting to risk too much physically or pitch in with blocking shots or whatnot, it doesn’t seem like a referendum needs to be held. Samsonov’s recent track record still shows that he’s the game one guy, and it was already likely that Sheldon Keefe’s plans were to have a short leash for goaltending struggles.
There is also an opportunity for the Leafs to take some comfort in what their happened with the Panthers last season. Alex Lyon had the net for the Panthers in the first three games, down in the series Sergei Bobrovsky started game four and was absolutely lit up. After that outing Bobrovsky spent the next month willing the Panthers to the cup finals.
The last thing I’d say when it comes to the Leafs is “don’t worry”, this franchise has spent the better part of its existence telling you to worry, but I will say don’t write off a goaltender over two bad starts in a row. Samsonov has bailed the Leafs out plenty in the second half of the season, if the Leafs need to start the playoffs with the mindset that he isn’t at the top of his game and they need to either tighten up defensively or outscore their goaltending problems, that isn’t a bad thing either.
For what it’s worth, Ilya Samsonov got things under control in the final forty minutes of the game on Saturday night and while it was likely the plan to shutdown Samsonov until the playoffs, maybe we see Keefe go back to Ilya one more time.

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