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Leafs sending Joseph Woll the wrong message after clutch win


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Ryan Smitheram
March 30, 2024  (10:33)
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Woll gets tonight off after big win Thursday
Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have created a little bit of breathing room for themselves over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night with a 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals. Following an "immature" game on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, the team, including Joseph Woll, bounced back with a much more complete effort on Thursday. However, one decision from the coaching staff on Friday is sending Woll the wrong message.

Thursday marked Woll's fourth consecutive start, and after his performance, giving up 1 goal on 24 shots, many expected him to start against the Buffalo Sabres tonight. That, however, is not the case as Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed that Ilya Samsonov will make his return to action following an injury scare last week.
Although Keefe noted that Woll and Samsonov would split the remaining 14 games without any particular order, by not starting Woll tonight, it sends the message that even if you win, you're not guaranteed to start the next game. While Woll has played 7 of the Leafs' 12 games since his return, his last four starts are the only consecutive ones he has made over that stretch and it has prevented him from getting into any sort of rhythm, especially with the inconsistent play in front of him recently.
The Leafs have 10 games remaining, including tonight, and with no guarantee of who starts Game 1 of the playoffs, Keefe appears to be playing a dangerous game with his goaltenders' confidence right now, failing to let Woll get into any sort of rhythm or rewarding him for a good performance.
Yes, Samsonov needs to play as well, but with so much focus this year being on the overall growth of Woll as a number one goaltender in this league, you'd really like to see him get a run of games before the playoffs to see what he can do. It's a tough spot to be in, though, as Samsonov has been the better goaltender since returning from his loan to the Marlies for a mental reset. I don't envy the position Sheldon Keefe is in right now.
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Leafs sending Joseph Woll the wrong message after clutch win

After Woll's recent dominant win against Washington, who should start game 1 of the playoffs?

Still Samsonov30782.7 %
I'd go with Woll6417.3 %
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