Toronto Maple Leafs Play Horribly, Win Thanks to Samsonov Redemption

Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators / Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photo/GettyImages

The Toronto Maple Leafs came out on top of the Winnipeg Jets in an overtime win Wednesday night thanks to a 32-save performance from Ilya Samsonov.

The team looked terrible for most of the game after a week long road trip out to Western Canada, however, Auston Matthews was able to notch his 39th goal of the season in overtime to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to their second win in a row.

The Leafs had no business winning this game. Their "best" period was the second when they posted a 45% possession rating. For the game, high-danger chances were 9-2 in favor of the Jets, and that's only at 5v5 and doesn't include the chances given up by the Leafs abysmal power-play.

The game had some interesting story lines that could lead the team into some interesting decisions over the next couple of weeks.

Ilya Samsonov Impresses in tearful return

After being placed on waivers a few weeks ago, followed by a week break from the team, Samsonov had arguably his best performance in a Maple Leafs uniform Wednesday night, which was highlighted by stopping a two man shorthanded breakaway against him.

Fans helped motivate Samsonov by chanting "Sammy" from the crowd. When asked about the crowds reaction, Samsonov stated "It's unbelievable, you know, like I almost cried".

Despite his strong play over the last two games, there are still some parts of his goaltending he needs to work on, most notable is that he is still over sliding on a few of the shots. However, he appeared a lot more confident and tracking the puck, especially on his glove side.

With Samsonov's recent play, he is starting to garner some momentum to regaining the top spot in net and will likely get the last start before the All-Star Break when the Maple Leafs head to Winnipeg for a rematch on Saturday night.

Sheldon Keefe Benches Trio, Including Auston Matthews

Throughout his tenure, Sheldon Keefe has never, to my recollection benched Auston Matthews, on Wednesday night that changed. In the midst of a 1 for 20 powerplay stretch, the team gave up the noted two man breakaway and Keefe's response was to sit Matthews, along with William Nylander and Mitch Marner for the next two man advantages.

The peculiar part of his decision was Matthews has been a top five player in the NHL this year as he leads the league with a mindboggling 39-goals before the All-Star Break.

The Maple Leafs franchise player has been the most responsible player on the team, but Keefe was frustrated with turnovers on the powerplay. However, these miscues were not caused by Matthews, or even Marner, they came directly from the sticks of Morgan Rielly and Nylander.

Some may turn the eyes to Matthews stepping off the ice when the two man breakaway occurred, however he was already getting off the ice when Nylander turned the puck over that led to the break.

Despite the benching, Matthews scored the only goal of the game which came in overtime. He now has 39 goals in 45 games, 30 of which have come at even strength.

While you don't want any player get preferential treatment, punishing a player for others mistakes may not be the right way to go.

Mark Giordano Sits For Second Consecutive Game

The 2023-24 season has been the worst of Mark Giordano's career, however, he has a place on the team and the last two games are exactly where he should be.

Giordano sat out Sunday night's game against the Seattle Kraken as it was the second night of back-to-back games for the Leafs. Keefe decided to keep Giordano in the press box for a second consecutive game and the 40-year old should know this is his role going forward.

The former Norris Trophy winner makes a cap friendly $800,000, comes with a ton of experience; and when used as a seventh defenseman he can be a valuable piece to the team. However, Keefe has been using him on the number one penalty kill unit, the second powerplay unit and Giordano has been seeing over 17 minutes night.

Over the last two games the Maple Leafs, who have one of the worst penalty kill units in the league have killed off all four shorthanded situations that they have handed the other team.


Giordano should stay in this role going forward where he can sub in game to game if a player needs a rest, not being a go to player in high leverage situations.