Sheldon Keefe all smiles during post-game media availability
Photo credit: NHL

Leafs head coach reveals who deserves most of the credit for stabilizing the team

Published January 7, 2024 at 11:10

The Toronto Maple Leafs rolled into California this week for a trio of games against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks and came away with 6 very big points in the standings. Obviously, the team played well, but they probably don't come away with 3 wins without the strong play of 3rd string goaltender Martin Jones.

Jones allowed just 2 goals across his 3 starts in California, shutting out the Kings on Tuesday before securing the 2-1 OT win over the Ducks on Wednesday in the second half of a back-to-back and, finally, putting up 23 saves in 24 shots against the Sharks last night in a 4-1 win. His performance was so significant that even Sheldon Keefe was blown away.

"Coming [into the season], you're so focused on Woll and Samsonov and you're really happy you have the depth and certainly thrilled that [Jones] got through waivers to remain with us. As a coach, you're hoping you don't need him, quite frankly. The fact that he has done the job that he has and he has stabilized our group through a very important and difficult time is terrific.

A credit to him and a credit to the players who have done a real nice job in front of him, too."

With his trio of wins in California, Jones now moves to 7-3-0 on the season, with a sparkling 2.08 GAA and formidable .932 SV%. Not many saw this coming from the 33-year-old after his 5-game run with the Marlies earlier this season in the AHL. Jones' run with the Marlies consisted of a 2-1-1 record with a 3.37 GAA and a .870 SV%.

With how well Jones has rebounded since being recalled by the Leafs, it begs the question; do the Leafs even need Ilya Samsonov any longer? By the numbers, a tandem that consists of Joseph Woll and Martin Jones is far superior right now. In fact, before last night's win over the Sharks, if you were to remove Samsonov's stats from the Leafs' team save percentage this season, they'd actually lead the league in team save percentage.

This career resurgence that Jones is experiencing in Toronto is not only one of the coolest stories in hockey this season, but it's also a boon for the Leafs, who would be in a significantly worse position right now were they forced to rely on a struggling Ilya Samsonov while Woll remains sidelined with a high-ankle sprain.
January 7   |   1313 answers
Leafs head coach reveals who deserves most of the credit for stabilizing the team

Who do you think the Leafs' biggest X-factor has been in their recent win streak?

Martin Jones94972.3 %
Auston Matthews1299.8 %
William Nylander14811.3 %
Other876.6 %
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