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Ilya Samsonov's win over Pittsburgh last night was a special one


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Mike Armenti
April 9, 2024  (1:52 PM)
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Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov adjusts his mask
Photo credit: USA Today Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov was solid in last night's 3-2 OT win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The win marked a very special one for him and the team.

To say that it's been a tale of two seasons for Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov would be the understatement of the century. Following a horrendous first half of the season, Samsonov actually found himself on waivers, going unclaimed by 31 teams before he was assigned to the Toronto Marlies where he spent a couple of weeks working with Hannu Toivonen. Since coming back, however, Samsonov has been one of the top goaltenders in the NHL since January 21st. No, that's not a stretch either.
Since January 21st, Samsonov has posted an 18-3-1 record and is also the owner of a .915 SV% and a 2.43 GAA. He has posted a pair of shutouts in that span as well.
With his win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, Samsonov also climbed his way up the Maple Leafs franchise record books, becoming the 2nd fastest Leafs goaltender of all-time to hit 50 wins as a Leaf, doing so in just 80 games. Samsonov inserted himself just ahead of the great Ed Belfour, and ironically enough, the only one above him is former Leafs netminder Jack Campbell, who was also placed on waivers earlier this season, going unclaimed and being assigned to the AHL's Bakersfield Condors, where he has remained ever since.

Oddly enough, there are a lot of similarities between Ilya Samsonov and Jack Campbell

When you look at the two situations, being those of Campbell and Samsonov, there are certainly some parallels to draw there. For one, both goaltenders were former 1st round draft picks, with Campbell going 11th overall to the Dallas Stars back in 2010. Meanwhile, Samsonov went 22nd overall to the Washington Capitals in 2015. Both netminders also have a similar career save percentage, with Campebell owning a .909 career SV%, while Samsonov has posted a collective .905 SV% over his young NHL career.
It gets even stranger when you realize that Samsonov was originally signed by the Leafs back in the summer of 2022 to replace the departing Campbell, who signed a 5-year $25M deal with the Oilers that summer after negotiations fell apart with he and the Leafs prior to free agency.

Samsonov's incredible run have almost certainly established him as the team's #1 netminder for the playoffs

Since January 21st, Samsonov's numbers are much closer to what they were last season, when the 27-year-old netminder put up a .919 SV% to go along with a 27-10-5 record and a 2.33 GAA. His current .915 SV% over that span has been a huge reason why the Leafs have been able to remain competitive in the Atlantic Division and why they're now just 3 points back of Florida for 2nd in the division with a game in hand on the Cats.
Coming into this season, and especially after the first few weeks were in the books, it's safe to say that nearly everyone saw a changing of the tide in Toronto, with Joseph Woll emerging as the team's #1 netminder. Unfortunately, an ankle injury forced Woll to the sidelines and paved the way for Martin Jones to go on a run with the Leafs before Samsonov returned to the lineup. Now, there is no question who the team's number one goaltender is going into the playoffs. Sorry, Joseph Woll - it's Ilya Samsonov's net when the playoffs begin.
For Woll, he has had the right attitude about losing the net to Samsonov. He's simply trying to be the best tandem partner that he can be, supporting Samsonov every step of the way. I'm sure it's a big part of the reason why Samsonov was able to return to form the way that he has and I'm sure he'd rave about Woll's attitude in all of this as well.
With 5 games remaining for the Leafs, we should expect Samsonov to get a bit of a rest prior to the start of the playoffs in a couple of weeks, starting tonight, when Joseph Woll will man the pipes for the Leafs in New Jersey. The puck is expected to drop shortly after 7:00pm ET.
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Ilya Samsonov's win over Pittsburgh last night was a special one

Should the Maple Leafs re-sign Ilya Samsonov or pass the reins off to Joseph Woll next season?

Give the net to Woll7419.1 %
Re-sign Sammy24663.6 %
Sign or trade for a different goalie6717.3 %
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