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Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov
Photo credit: Maple Leafs on Twitter/X

Sheldon Keefe makes excuses for Ilya Samsonov following Game 1 loss

Published April 21, 2024 at 9:38
BY MIKE ARMENTI
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The Toronto Maple Leafs rolled into Boston for Game 1 against the Bruins having gone 0-2-2 in their season series. Unfortunately, it was more of the same last night, dropping a 5-1 decision, with Ilya Samsonov allowing 4 before an empty-netter from from Trent Frédéric iced the game.

Sheldon Keefe told the media just prior to puck drop that the Leafs' season series against the Bruins simply showed them "what doesn't work". Well, it looks like the Leafs failed to apply what they learned throughout the season in Game 1, as it was as sloppy a performance as you might expect from a team who has had trouble with the Bruins in the postseason since 1959.

A part of the problem last night was that the Leafs repeatedly got themselves into trouble with "undisciplined" and "careless" penalties. The other part of the problem was that they couldn't keep the puck out of the net. Ilya Samsonov couldn't do anything about one of those things, but he certainly didn't do himself any favours when it came to the other. The 27-year-old netminder made some good saves during the game, but also allowed poor positioning to dictate the outcome of the game on 2 of the goals. He played deep in his net and looked very small in this one, but Sheldon Keefe was the first one to defend his goaltender after the loss, stating that a lack of goal support was a huge problem for the Leafs. While true, I fail to see how Samsonov's play inspired any confidence from the group at all.

"I would categorize each of their goals from his perspective as good goals... I don't put this on him."
-Keefe on Samsonov's play last night in Game 1



To me, it almost felt like Keefe over-defended his goalie on a night where he really wasn't good. Obviously, we know that Samsonov has confidence issues. We've seen him struggle at times throughout the season before a hiatus from the team had helped him to reset and re-focus. That's a luxury he and the Leafs just don't have in the playoffs. I.know what Keefe was trying to do here. He's trying to back Sammy to boost his confidence. I'm just not entirely sure it's the right message to send when you need a timely save. Samsonov just wasn't good enough last night. Yes, the Leafs need to put the puck in the net, but their last line of defense - their goalie - also has to be better.

For Samsonov, he's trying to take a Game 1 loss in stride. He told the media after the game that he has nothing but belief in himself and in his teammates that they can come back and win this series.

"I believe in myself. I believe in my skill. I believe in everybody in this room. That gives me confidence."
-Samsonov on how he's feeling after a Game 1 loss

Samsonov's play wasn't the entire story in this one. The Bruins' power play and penalty kill were also better than the Leafs in both categories. The Leafs went 0/3 on the power play and allowed 2 goals on the penalty kill. Yes, the calls were going Boston's way all night, but there were some careless stick infractions committed by Auston Matthews, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi that contributed to their special teams trouble.

Game 2 is scheduled to take place on Monday evening. Hopefully that game is not just another "lesson" for the Leafs and they come out with a better game plan, more focus, more composure and can find a way to convert on their chances and keep the puck out of their own net in the process.
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April 21   |   444 answers
Sheldon Keefe makes excuses for Ilya Samsonov following Game 1 loss

Do you think Ilya Samsonov finishes the series against the Bruins as the number 1 goalie for the Maple Leafs?

Yes. It's a 7-game series, not a 1-game series25056.3 %
No, it should be Woll's net now19443.7 %
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