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Toronto Maple Leafs’ Joseph Woll came up big in return from injury

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Ellis
1 month ago
Calm. Cool. Collected. All hallmarks of Joseph Woll’s game.
And on Thursday, the 25-year-old keeper looked every bit the part in his first game back from injury since December, making 30 stops in a 3-2 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Arizona Coyotes.
It was the team’s eighth win over the past 10 games, and Woll was the third goalie to make it happen. There was a time when Woll’s injury looked like a potential death blow to this franchise. Ilya Samsonov barely looked like an AHL backup-caliber goalkeeper, and hoping Martin Jones would sustain his early success seemed unlikely. But the pair were great when called upon since the NHL All-Star Game break, and Woll’s return only helped things out.
Easing Woll in against the Coyotes – a team riding a 14-game losing streak – was the perfect way to do it. Arizona didn’t generate much in terms of high-danger scoring chances, but Woll still had to some significant stretching to keep a few chances away.
There wasn’t much he could have done on the Alex Kerfoot revenge breakaway goal – because, of course, that happened. But he otherwise didn’t show any ailments and looked as good as they could have hoped for. The second goal was a bad bounce, and then the Leafs seemingly gave up in front of their goalkeeper.
Woll didn’t fold under the pressure, and despite an onslaught from a determined Coyotes team in the dying minutes, he snagged his first victory since Dec. 7.
“He was outstanding,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He was the difference in the game tonight. Obviously, we didn’t play great today. Joe was excellent.”
Woll’s game is built upon being so technically sound. He never gets caught flopping. He’s always square to the shot and covers so much of the net. It’s what made him downright unstoppable throughout most of the 2022-23 AHL season, and those fundamentals have carried him early on in his NHL career.
The Leafs needed a bounce-back effort after falling to Vegas earlier in the week. But more importantly, Woll needed it for himself after missing such a significant portion of the season – just when he was starting to show how vital he was to the team’s success. Woll had established himself as a No. 1 in a city where goaltenders get chewed up and spit out on a far too frequent basis. He had to battle through significant injuries year after year, so another setback was brutal.
He didn’t look any worse for wear last night, that’s for sure.
“It was great for him to get through a game like that where the shot volume is not high — this Arizona doesn’t shoot the puck a ton, but when they do shoot it, it is usually a pretty good scoring opportunity,” Keefe said. “They make a lot of plays. They are a very skilled team and make you move around the zone.
The Leafs have the luxury of not needing to do anything about the three-goalie system. If the team can afford it, it makes sense to keep Jones around as injury insurance and give Samsonov and Woll some rest down the stretch. So there’s no rush in getting Woll back into the starter’s chair for now, given how well the other two have played.
Baby steps for now, but a great return, nonetheless.

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