TORONTO – He can giggle about it now, however Ilya Samsonov’s begins in opposition to the Toronto Maple Leafs final season have been decidedly extra horror than comedy.
“I simply keep in mind how we performed the Leafs, I would go to the bench after first interval,” the previous Washington Capitals goalie chuckles.
“Everyone is aware of that is the perfect staff for scoring targets.”
Samsonov solely confronted his high-octane new staff twice in 2021-22.
However in case you give up seven targets and get yanked nicely earlier than the second buzzer in a pair decisive losses, certainly you may envision what it will be prefer to have that form of run assist move the opposite means.
Should you can’t beat ’em, be part of ’em.
Following Thursday’s first official apply with the Maple Leafs — a crowded, high-tempo marathon session that made use of all 4 pads on the Ford Efficiency Centre and required a number of floods — Samsonov was upbeat throughout his first assembly with Toronto reporters.
“I actually prefer it. I’m so excited,” Samsonov mentioned. “Everyone right here needs to win Stanley Cup, and it’s an excellent alternative for me.”
So good, in actual fact, Samsonov says he turned down provides with long term earlier than inking a one-year, $1.8-million pact with the Leafs after a profitable pitch by GM Kyle Dubas.
“It was good for me and good for the staff,” Samsonov causes.
“He actually needed it to be a one-year form of show-me, bet-on-yourself sort deal, which isn’t at all times frequent with gamers coming off of this shock of being non-QO’d when he wasn’t anticipating it,” Dubas mentioned. “That was spectacular to me.”
Samsonov ought to start the season as 1B to Matt Murray’s 1A, and the 2 have already struck up a friendship, arriving on the town nicely earlier than camp’s opening.
The 25-year-old deferred his most popular sweater quantity (30) to the two-time Cup champ, as a substitute choosing 35, his authentic quantity in AHL Hershey.
However given Murray’s damage historical past and Samsonov’s starvation, a wholesome battle for work ought to ensue.
“Each have proven they will carry the load, and we have to get them each up and operating, and will probably be tough to try this if one is taking part in all of the video games and the opposite is sitting,” Dubas informed reporters.
“The way in which the schedule is in the beginning of the yr form of makes that straightforward, to allow them to each roll. However that mentioned, it’s going to be based mostly on benefit, on how they play in exhibition, how they play to start out the yr… nothing has been promised to both and so they’ll earn (taking part in time).”
If Murray at a $4.69 million cap hit for 2 years is an enormous gamble, Samsonov for half the time period and a fraction of the worth is a extra calculated one.
In 94 video games unfold over three campaigns in Washington, Samsonov recorded a .902 save share and three.02 goals-against common. Not precisely wow numbers, however he received extra video games than he misplaced (53-23-10).
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan tried to commerce Samsonov within the low season however couldn’t discover a companion. The group then declined handy him a $2.2-million qualifying supply, letting their 2015 first-rounder stroll for nothing — a choice that Samsonov says stunned him “just a little bit.”
The goalie chalks it as much as enterprise.
In response to these near the staff, Samsonov’s ATV damage main as much as the 2020 bubble playoffs didn’t endear him to the staff.
Overlook the numbers, one supply suggested.
Samsonov could also be athletic and able to highlight-reel moments, however he can even drift or lose his stick.
The Russian constructed a repute for surrendering mushy, ill-timed targets in shut video games that may kill momentum.
“The staff gave him loads of alternative to grab the No. 1 job, and he couldn’t have sustained success,” the supply mentioned.
New Leafs goalie coach Curtis Sanford is embracing the problem of Samsonov’s bounce-back. Sanford flew right down to Florida, the place Samsonov was conducting his summer time coaching with reigning Vezina champ Igor Shesterkin.
Emphasis was positioned on bettering Samsonov’s footwork, cross-crease pace, and submit work. Samsonov additionally picked Shesterkin’s mind for recommendation on steeling his psychological recreation.
“He is placing in numerous work, and he is a really motivated man coming in,” coach Sheldon Keefe enthuses.
“Very good man. Nice angle, nice strategy. He speaks OK English, however he goes out of his solution to discuss to guys.”
Previous to displaying up for camp in Toronto, Samsonov spoke together with his fellow Ilyas, Lyubushkin and Mikheyev, to get a way of what it’ll be like below the microscope.
“Everyone says the identical factor: good folks, a whole lot of media right here,” Samsonov smiles.
“Me and Matt will get some alternative each. It’s very nice alternative for me. He’s good man. We’ll attempt to push collectively, and we need to win with this staff.”
Muzzin sidelined already
Jake Muzzin was a notable absentee from Day 1 of camp’s on-ice periods.
The highest-four defenceman will probably be sidelined till early subsequent week as he nurses discomfort in his again.
“I am feeling good, and I have not felt something in regards to the concussions I’ve had prior to now. However I am feeling good and able to go for this yr,” Muzzin informed reporters on Wednesday.
Keefe says he’s not involved with the seriousness of the problem.
“Right this moment, for essentially the most half, is likely one of the hardest days of the yr. This was an excellent day to offer him some further time away,” the coach mentioned.
The 33-year-old was restricted to 47 appearances in 2021-22 as he battled a number of illnesses however confirmed nicely within the seven-game Tampa Bay collection.
Toronto’s blueline depth has taken a preseason hit, with RFA Rasmus Sandin nonetheless unsigned and Timothy Liljegren (hernia) out for no less than six weeks.
One-timers: Calle Järnkrok kicked off camp alongside Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting. Adam Gaudette skated with John Tavares and Mitch Marner. The brand new guys will get prime audition time for the highest six…. Pierre Engvall (foot) skated in full gear on a separate pad. He’s dominated out till Oct. 3…. Goalie Joseph Woll (shoulder) and ahead Mikhail Abramov (again) are nonetheless recovering from accidents…. The staff was break up into the 2 teams that can host the Ottawa Senators in Saturday’s preseason double-header…. The Maple Leafs’ coaching camp playlist — cranked to 11 — felt very a lot impressed by the Tremendous Bowl LVI halftime present and the Dr. Dre household tree. A gradual stream of classic N.W.A., Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, and The Sport. A little bit Future and Drake tossed in for good measure. No complaints right here.
Maple Leafs Day 1 strains
Bunting – Matthews – Järnkrok
Aston-Reese – Kämpf – Anderson
Robertson – Kerfoot – Aube-Kubel
Clifford – Minten – Simmonds
Rielly – Brodie
Benn – Mete
Kokkonen – Villeneuve
Gaudette – Tavares – Marner
Malgin – Holmberg – Nylander
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Abruzzese
Steeves – Douglas – Ellis
Giordano – Holl
Kral – Dahlström
Rifai – Hollowell