We’re 18 games into the Toronto Maple Leafs season and the goaltending has yet to be an issue.
With a 9-5-4 record, the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently second in the Atlantic Division, despite going through a stretch where we all thought the world was ending. (Or most of us, anyway).
During the offseason, Toronto decided to move on from Jack Campbell and instead of going with a number-one netminder, they decided to go with a tandem approach, featuring Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov.
Murray, was the more well-known name as he’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner, but Samsonov was the more intriguing player. The former first-round pick had all of the potential in the world, but hadn’t quite developed into the player everyone expected with the Washington Capitals.
As a result, a new team and a one-year deal could be the motivating factor for him, as he’ll look to get paid after this season.
That was the dream scenario for Toronto, but injuries have stopped that from happening.
Well sort of.
Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Is Working So Far
If you would have told Leafs fans that Erik Kallgren has played in eight of the first 18 games this year, you would have been very concerned. The third-string, possibly even fourth-string goalie wasn’t scheduled to start any games this year, but injuries to Samsonov, Murray and projected Marlies start Joseph Woll, resulted in Kallgren playing a ton.
Kallgren posted a .931 5v5 save percentage in his eight games, essentially saving the season.
Now that Murray is back and healthy, the Leafs are in a much better spot and once Samsonov gets healthy, the team will look completely different.
A healthy Murray and Samsonov should keep them fresh and should make them better as they both compete for the starter’s net.
In Murray’s two starts since coming back from injury, he’s only allowed four goals in regulation. That’s all you can ask from any starter in the NHL, so if he can keep that up, the Leafs are going to win many more games than they lose.
Then, when Samsonov was healthy, he looked awesome. The injury couldn’t have came at a worse time for him, because it felt like he was going to run away with the starts for the rest of the year, based on his 2.23 GAA and .934 5v5 SV% (stats: naturalstattrick.com).
Although Murray and Samsonov have only played in one game together this year, the tandem netminders are working because they’ve balanced each other out. When Murray got injured, Samsonov stepped in and looked great. When they both went down, unexpectedly, Erik Kallgren stepped up.
Then, after Samsonov got hurt, Murray has now played great and secured three of four points in his last two starts.
Having a true number-one goalie is important for the playoffs, but throughout an 82-game season, two goalies is better than one and it’s helping the Leafs secure some much needed wins right now.
Many people were skeptic about a tandem of Murray/Samsonov in the offseason, but I’d say after 18 games, it’s working out well and it should continue to improve once Samsonov is healthy again.