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Toronto Maple Leafs need Joseph Woll to channel Brick Woll energy down the stretch

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Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Ellis
15 days ago
All things considered, it’s been an interesting season for 25-year-old Joseph Woll.
Early on, he was thrust into the starter’s chair, wrangling it away from a struggling Ilya Samsonov. But a high-ankle sprain kept Woll out for 35 games, only for Samsonov to seemingly steal the No. 1 gig – at least temporarily.
Since returning on Feb. 29, Woll has a 2-3-0 record, allowing three or more goals in three contests. In his most recent start on Sunday, he was exceptional in a 41-save effort against Carolina, but he still ended on the wrong side of the scoresheet.
Toronto has kept a heavy goaltender rotation throughout most of the season. They didn’t rush Woll in, giving him just five starts in 26 days ahead of a rare consecutive start on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. Ilya Samsonov is out day-to-day after leaving Saturday’s contest against Edmonton, with Martin Jones finishing out the 6-3 victory.
While Woll’s starts have been sporadic, they’re trying to keep him focused and rested for the playoff push. There’s no clear favorite to be the Game 1 starter, but the Leafs will look to do whatever it takes to make all three guys ready when the time comes.
But for Woll, getting the most out of his starts is vital.
“I think if the last game is any indication, he’s building momentum and getting back into a groove,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “That’s why it’s important to get him back into the net tonight.”
The Leafs took Monday off after a back-to-back over the weekend. With a proper morning skate – minus Morgan Rielly, Joel Edmundson, Mitch Marner and Samsonov – the Leafs are recharged and ready to take on a Devils team clinging on to their fledging playoff hopes. Toronto is taking it one game at a time – including with how they handle their goaltender assignments – and there’s opportunities for experimentation. But for the Leafs, one of their primary goals is ensuring their goaltenders are healthy, rested, battle-tested and confident.
For Woll, the rough return hasn’t been ideal, but he hasn’t played badly either.
“He’s had some tough starts here, right? He’s been on the tail end of back-to-backs, and he has played some tough opponents,” Keefe said. “So getting him in this one here tonight, I thought that was important for lots of reasons. Not just because of the way he played in the last game, but just getting him an extra start.”
Woll has never faced the Devils, so that’ll be a new challenge for him. He’s 5-5-1 at home this season, as opposed to 6-3-0 on the road. So performing at Scotiabank Arena has been difficult for No. 60 –  losses against Ottawa, Chicago, Buffalo and Arizona sting a bit more, too.
The good news? Woll hasn’t lost when playing back-to-back games. And with some added pressure for Woll to perform late in the season – especially with Tampa Bay closing in on Toronto’s heels, sitting just four points back from the third Atlantic Division spot – it’ll be interesting to see how Woll answers the bell tonight. If Samsonov isn’t ready to go the rest of the week, it’s not inconceivable that Woll could play Toronto’s next two games against Washington on Thursday and Buffalo on Saturday, either.
Hopefully, the Buds will get another Brick Woll performance tonight, as they know he’s capable of doing.

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