With Samsonov's struggles of late, is Matt Murray in line to become the team's number one goaltender?

Published December 29, 2022 at 10:39
BY BRADLEY CELSIE
Ilya Samsonov had a remarkable start to the season. In his first 11 starts of the year, he posted a .939 save percentage, and a 1.70 goals against average, which was good for first in the NHL in both categories among goalies who had played at least eight games. However, he has stumbled of late, allowing 12 goals over his last 3 starts and is sporting an .852 save percentage and a 3.94 goals against average over that span.


Additionally, Samsonov did not look particularly comfortable in the Leafs' net last night against the St. Louis Blues. He seemed to be moving too much in his goal and was at times caught out of position. Post-game, he admitted his hips were tired after the game, but explained that the first game back after the Christmas break and shabby ice conditions as the primary reasons for his struggles.




Given how well Samsonov started the season, we should not be surprised he has hit a bit of a slump here. His early season run was simply not sustainable. With that said, it may be time to let Matt Murray assume the role of starter for the Leafs, at least for the time being. Murray has had a great season, and continues to impress as of late. In his last four games, he has posted a .935 save percentage and a 1.75 goals against average.

Another consideration here is that when Matt Murray was acquired by the Leafs, the thought was that he was brought in to be the starter. While the Leafs never came out and said this, his $4.6875 million dollar cap hit would suggest the buds were expecting him to be their number one goaltender. To be clear, I don't believe anyone in Toronto expected 60 plus games for Murray because those days for most goaltenders seem to be over. However I do believe the team did not go into the season expecting to rotate goaltenders every game. For parts of the season, perhaps, but not for 82 straight games.

At some point a team wants a goalie to grab the net and put a run together. Given Samsonov's recent struggles, this might be an opportunity for Matt Murray to do just that. Throughout a long NHL season, we should expect goaltenders to have ups and down. Right now, it feels like Murray is the former while Samsonov is the latter. Best to ride the hot hand, while it lasts and perhaps a few consecutive games as a backup will eliminate all of the pressure and help to shake Samsonov out of his funk.
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