TORONTO – He can laugh about it now, but Ilya Samsonov’s start against the Toronto Maple Leafs last season was decidedly more horror than comedy.
“I remember how I played with the Leafs. I would probably go on the bench after the first period. All three games,” laughs the rookie.
“Everyone knows this is the best team to score goals.”
In fact, Samsonov has only faced his energetic new side twice in 2021-22. But certainly his two nights feel like a lot more when he concedes seven goals and suffers a decisive defeat before the second buzzer sounds.
If you can’t win, please join us.
Following Thursday’s first official practice at the Maple Leafs — a crowded, high-tempo marathon session that utilized all four pads at the Ford Performance Center and required multiple floods — Samsonov held his first meeting with reporters in Toronto. The meeting was optimistic.
“I really like it. I am very excited,” said Samsonov. “Everybody here wants to win the Stanley Cup. It’s a good opportunity for me.”
In fact, Samsonoff says he turned down longer-term offers before signing a one-year, $1.8 million contract with the Leafs after a successful pitch by GM Kyle Dubas.
“It was good for me and the team,” says Samsonov.
“He really wanted it to be a show-me of sorts for a year, a bet on himself type of deal. It’s not always common for people to break away, that’s it,” Dubus said. “It was impressive to me.”
Samsonoff had to start the season as a 1B against Matt Murray’s 1A, and the two had already struck up a friendship, arriving in town well before camp started.
The 25-year-old postponed the two-time Cup champion’s preferred sweater number (30) and instead chose 35, his original number at AHL Hershey.
But given Murray’s injury history and Samsonov’s hunger, a healthy fight for the job should continue.
“It shows that they can both carry loads, and you have to have both running. If one is playing all the games and the other is sitting, it’s going to be hard to do that,” Dubus said. told reporters.
“The way the schedule is at the beginning of the year makes it easy to roll back both. No promises have been made and they will earn (playing time).”
If Murray hitting a cap hit of $4.69 million in two years is a big bet, Samsonov getting a piece of the price in half the term is a more calculated one.
In 94 games across three campaigns in Washington, Samsonov posted a . 902 save percentage and 3.02 goals against average. Not a huge number, but he won more games than he lost (53-23-10).
Capitals GM Brian McClellan tried to trade Samsonov in the offseason but couldn’t find a partner. The organization has since declined to hand him a $2.2 million qualifying offer and let the 2015 first-round pick walk for free, which Samsonov says surprised him “a little.”
The goalkeeper chalks it up to business.
Samsonov’s ATV injury heading into the 2020 bubble playoffs didn’t endear him to the team, according to people close to the team.
Forget the numbers, one source advised.
Samsonov has good motor skills and may be able to produce highlight moments, but he can also drift or lose his stick.
The Russian has built a reputation for giving up soft, ill-timed goals that lose momentum in close matches.
“The team gave him plenty of opportunities to grab the number one job, but he couldn’t sustain his success,” the source said.
New Leafs goalkeeping coach Curtis Sanford tackles Samsonov’s bounce challenge. Sanford flew to Florida, where Samsonov was in summer training with reigning Vezina champion Igor Shesterkin.
Emphasis was placed on improving Samsonov’s footwork, cross crease speed and postwork. Samsonov also chose Shesterkin’s brain for advice on enhancing his mental game.
“He has a lot of work to do and is a very motivated player,” enthuses coach Sheldon Keef.
“Very nice guy. Great attitude, great approach. He speaks decent English but struggles to talk to men.”
Before attending the camp in Toronto, Samsonov spoke with his comrades Ilyas, Lyubushkin and Mikheyev to get a feel for what was going on under the microscope.
“Everybody says the same thing. Nice people, we have a lot of media here,” smiles Samsonov.
“Both me and Matt will be given some opportunities. It’s a really good opportunity for me. He’s a nice guy. We’ll try to push together and I want to win with this team.”
mazin is already absent
Jake Muzzin was a notable absentee on day one of the camp’s ice sessions.
The top four defender will be out until early next week as he seeks treatment for back discomfort.
“I feel good and I don’t feel anything about the concussions I’ve had in the past. But I feel good and I’m ready for this year,” Mazin told reporters Wednesday.
Keef said he is not concerned with the seriousness of the issue.
“Today is one of the hardest days of the year for the most part. Today was a good day to give him extra time,” the coach said.
The 33-year-old battled multiple ailments that limited him to 47 games in the 2021-22 season, but he did well in the seven-game Tampa Bay Series.
Toronto’s Blue Line Depth has a preseason hit, RFA Rasmus Sandin is yet to be signed, and Timothy Liljegren (hernia) is out at least six weeks.
One timer: Calle Järnkrok started camp with Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting. Adam Gaudette skated with John Tavares and Mitch Marner. The rookie gets prime audition time in the top 6…. He is ruled out until October 3…. Goalkeeper Joseph Wall (shoulder) and forward Mikhail Abramov (back) are still recovering from injuries…. Split into two groups to host the Senators…. Maple Leafs’ training camp playlist (ranked up to 11), as heavily inspired by the Super Bowl LVI halftime show and the Dr. Dre family tree felt. A constant stream of vintage NWA, Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and The Game. A little bit of Future and Drake thrown in for the right amount.No complaints here.
Maple Leaf Day 1
Bunting – Matthews – Järnkrok
Robertson – Carfoot – Ove Kubel
Lily – Brody
Ben – Mete
Kokkonen – Villeneuve
McMann – Der-Arguhuntsev – Abruzzesian
Steves – Douglas – Ellis
Giordano – Hall
Krall – Dahlström
Rephi – Hollowell
Maple Leafs Notebook: Why Samsonov Chose Toronto
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