Toronto Maple Leafs: So Far, Joseph Woll Is Vezina and Calder Candidate

May 12, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Joseph Woll (60) catches a shot from Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk (19) in the second period in game five of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
May 12, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Joseph Woll (60) catches a shot from Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk (19) in the second period in game five of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Joseph Woll has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this season.

Prior to the start of the Toronto Maple Leafs season, there was a debate between the pipes, but they look to have found their answer in Joseph Woll, who’s having a spectacular campaign.

If Woll doesn’t play to the level that he’s playing at right now, Toronto’s record isn’t close to what it is. Although Woll’s individual record is only 8-5-1, he’s probably deserving of a few more victories than what he has, and he has stolen three games personally.

In 14 games, Toronto has allowed 27 or more shots 13 times. The only appearance where the Leafs have allowed less than that was when he only played two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning and proceeded to stop 18 of 19 and get the win.

If you compare Woll’s stats to the rest of the league, he’s averaging the fourth most shots per night among goalies who have played more than 10 games this year.

  • Ilya Sorkin (stats via: espn.com):
    • 15 games played: 548 shots allowed (36.5 shots per game), 3.09 GAA, .914 SV%
  • Jake Allen:
    • 10 games played: 343 shots allowed (34.3 shots per game), 3.74 GAA, .898 SV%
  • Mackenzie Blackwood:
    • 18 games played: 592 shots allowed (32.8 shots per game), 3.72 GAA, .899 SV%
  • Joseph Woll:
    • 14 games played: 459 shots allowed (32.7 shots per game), 2.82 GAA, .915 SV%

As you can see, only Sorkin, Allen and Blackwood average more shots per night, but the New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens aren’t great hockey teams, nor were they projected to be before the season. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs were one of the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, and have proceeded to have a great record, despite extremely poor defensive play all year.

Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie Playing Like a Vezina Trophy Candidate

If the Leafs can lower their shots allowed totals when Woll is net, and he continues to play this well,  that should really help their defensive issues. Sure, relying on a rookie goalie to be your best player in the playoffs is a tall-task if you want to win a Stanley Cup, but the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues are two recent examples of team’s who have won a championship doing this, so it’s not an impossible strategy.

The funny thing about the Toronto Maple Leafs averaging so many shots on net when Woll plays is that they haven’t done the same when Ilya Samsonov is in net.

For example, in 10 games this year, the Leafs have only allowed 255 shots on net when Samsonov is playing, for an average of 25.5 shots per night. Despite allowing seven shots less per night, Samsonov has a 3.58 GAA and .878 SV%, which are among some of the worst stats in the NHL.

Maybe Toronto feels more confident to play aggressive when Woll is in net, which would result in more turnovers and odd-man chances the other way, or it’s just a complete coincidence, but Woll is showing his teammates and management that he deserves to be the no. 1 netminder over Samsonov right now.

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If Woll can keep up this solid play, he’ll not only be a lock to be a Calder Trophy nominee as one of the league’s top rookies, but he should be considered for the Vezina Trophy as well.