Ilya Samsonov Is Pulling Away With the Starting Role

Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs
Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

Coming into April it looked as though the starting goaltending job for the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff run was up in the air between Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll, however the tide appears to be changing and in favour of the Russian goalie.

By Christmas this past winter you would have been surprised to not only see Samsonov still in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, but anointed the number one goalie.

The lack of confidence in him was because by the new year, Samsonov had posted an 5-2-6 record with an abysmal 3.94 goals against average and .862 save percentage, which not only led to him being placed on waivers, but the entire league passing on an opportunity to take him on with just half a season left on his contract.

He is pulling away with the Leafs starting goalie job over the last few games.

A Reset Almost Always Seems to Work

The organization gave Samsonov what they described to be a mental break from the team to give him a reset in hopes of resurrecting his season and that may have been the best decision the organization has done this year. Since rejoining the club, the former first round pick has posted a 16-4-1 record with a 2.51 goals against average and a tidy .912 save percentage.

What has been more impressive is that over the stretch drive he has lost just two regular season losses over his last 16 starts. (all stats

The only question was whether future number one goalie Joseph Woll would be able to regain his number one role when he came back from injury in late February and unfortunately that has not been the case. In his eight games since returning to the net, Woll has won just three games and surrendered four goals or more in half his starts.

Far too often, whether a tough shot or not, Woll has been allowing the first shot of the game to beat him and this continued on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since coming back from his ankle injury, he has not just lost the majority of the games, but Woll has posted a 3.16 GAA and .887 save percentage.

This is not to say that Woll won't regain his form and he is still likely the starting goalie for years to come, but right now Samsonov is outplaying the young American goalie.


The Toronto Maple Leafs have seven games left in the regular season with a pair of back-to-backs so there is still some time for Woll to make his case for playoff action, but right now Samsonov should be in net for the first game of the playoffs.