Sheldon Keefe makes questionable goaltending decision for tonight's game against Columbus

Dean Chaudhry
December 29, 2023  (10:11)

Ilya Samsonov gets another opportunity tonight versus the Blue Jackets
Photo credit: NHL

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been operating with a 1A/1B tandem for most of the season, but I don't believe that was their full intention heading into the 2023-24 campaign. The unpredictable struggles of Ilya Samsonov coupled with the absence of Joseph Woll have forced the club into using Martin Jones more often than maybe they would have liked, but it has yielded better results than most had anticipated after his late-summer signing as well.

The Leafs will be concluding their 3-game series against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, which will also represent their 3rd game against Columbus in 2 weeks. Sheldon Keefe has announced that Samsonov will get the start after Jones played on Wednesday in their 4-2 loss to Ottawa.
Samsonov started in the first game against Columbus on the 14th of December, allowing 6 goals in a 6-5 overtime loss. Jones was then given the next start against the Blue Jackets just 10 days later, stopping 27 of 28 shots in a dominant 4-1 victory. It's a bit of a surprise to see Samsonov get the start when Jones has clearly been the better of the two netminders, by a pretty large margin.
Samsonov's struggles have persisted all season, so, at some point, you would like Keefe to continue riding the hot hand instead of hoping that the Russian netminder can get out of his current funk.
In 7 games on the season, Jones is 4-2-0 with a .914 SV% and 2.85 G.A.A. with 1 shutout. Samsonov, on the other hand, is 5-2-5 with a .871 SV% and a 3.79 G.A.A. However, since Jones has arrived on the scene, Samsonov has started in 4 games and sports a 1-1-2 record with an even worse .851 SV% and 15 goals allowed.
The season isn't hanging in the balance just yet as they sit 2 points back of Florida with 2 games in hand and 6 points back of division-leading Boston with 1 game in hand, but Tampa Bay is right behind them, while Detroit and even Montreal are creeping up.
Add in the always-competitive Metropolitan Division and you have 5 more clubs either tied with the Leafs or trailing them by a few points.
Here's hoping that the holiday break afforded Samsonov enough time to regroup and get back to his 2022-23 form that saw him post career highs in games started, wins, save percentage, G.A.A., and shutouts. However, Jones might have been the better option, considering he just beat Columbus 6 days ago.
Sheldon Keefe makes questionable goaltending decision for tonight's game against Columbus

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