Samsonov’s excellence giving Leafs teammates a confidence boost

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Never mind Ilya Samsonov’s pretty assist the other night. 

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It’s what Samsonov is paid to do — keep the puck out of the Maple Leafs’ net — that continues to provide the club with a sturdy backbone.

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All indications were that Samsonov will be back in goal on Wednesday night when the Leafs play host to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Arena, looking to improve on his almost-perfect home record of 13-0-1.

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“Sammy, when he is feeling it, he is reading the play so well, you can just see it,” veteran Leafs defenceman Mark Giordano said after the club’s morning skate. “It’s not just straight shots, it’s deflections, tips, seeing plays. He is there before the puck gets there. And then his overall game. You saw last game, he reads the play so well he got an assist because of it. 

“It’s like with any player, goalies are the same — you can see that confidence and in a position that’s that important, when they have that confidence, the whole team feeds off it.”

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Against the New York Islanders on Monday, Samsonov’s stretch pass to William Nylander resulted in a power-play goal by captain John Tavares. Samsonov finished the game with 31 saves as the Leafs won for the third time in four games.

The start on Wednesday will be Samsonov’s fourth in a row. Whether the Leafs turn to Matt Murray to start against his former team, the Ottawa Senators on Friday in the third game of a five-game Toronto home stand, is to be determined.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe will stick with the forward switch he made on Monday, one that sparked the Leafs to their 18th victory in 25 home games. 

Mitch Marner will line up alongside Auston Matthews again, while Nylander will be to the right of Tavares. 

“Matthews and Marner work really well together and I always thought of going back to that, but it (Marner with Tavares) was working well for us as a team, was going well for all of them as individuals, so there was no real need to switch it,” Keefe said. “Of late, things have not gone as well for both groups.

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“When you make a switch and both groups really hit, it’s just natural just stay with it. The fact that for such a long period of time, it worked the other way, gives me confidence to flip it back if I need to. It’s great that the players have embraced whatever we’ve asked them to do.”

The Rangers have won four of their past six games, including a 6-2 trouncing of the Florida Panthers on Monday, and are expected to start Igor Shesterkin in goal. 

In their only previous meeting in 2022-23, the Rangers beat the Leafs 3-1 in New York on Dec. 15.

How do the Leafs get a better result on Wednesday?

“Score more than one goal,” Keefe said. “We played a good hockey game when we were down there. We did a lot of good things in that game, just did not score enough.”

The projected Leafs lineup for Wednesday night:



Michael Bunting-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner

Calle Jarnkrok-John Tavares-Wiliam Nylander

Bobby McMann-David Kampf-Pierre Engvall

Alex Kerfoot-Pontus Holmberg-Joey Anderson


Morgan Rielly-Justin Holl

Mark Giordano-Timothy Liljegren

Rasmus Sandin-Jordie Benn


Ilya Samsonov

Matt Murray

[email protected]

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