TORONTO – He can laugh about it now, but Ilya Samsonov’s debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs last season was definitely more scary than comedic.
“I just remember how the Leafs played, I’m going to the bench after the first half,” the former Washington Capitals goalkeeper chuckles.
“Everyone knows that this is the best goal-scoring team.”
Samsonov faced his new high-octane team only twice in 2021-22.
But if you gave up seven goals and came out well before the second bell in two crucial losses, then you can certainly imagine what that kind of running support would be like in the other direction.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
After Thursday’s first formal practice with the Maple Leafs — a busy, high-tempo marathon session that took advantage of all four pads at the Ford Performance Center and required multiple floods — Samsonoff was upbeat during his first meeting with the Toronto reporters.
“I really liked it,” Samsonov said. “Everyone here wants to win the Stanley Cup, and it’s a good opportunity for me.”
So good, in fact, that Samsonov says he turned down long-term offers before signing a one-year, $1.8 million agreement with The Leafs after a successful presentation by GM Kyle Dubas.
“It was good for me and good for the team,” Samsonov says.
“He really wanted it to be a one-year deal of a bet-your-self type, which is not always uncommon with players coming out of this shock of not being under quality quality when he wasn’t expecting,” Dubas said.
Samsonov should start season 1B to 1A for Matt Murray, the two have already struck up a friendship, arriving in town well before camp opens.
The 25-year-old has deferred his favorite jacket number (30) to the two-time cup champion, instead of picking 35, his original number at AHL Hershey.
But given Murray’s injury history and Samsonov’s hunger, a healthy battle for action should begin.
“They both showed that they can take the load, we need to get them to work, and it will be difficult to do that if one plays all the games and the other is seated,” Dubas told reporters.
“The way the schedule is at the beginning of the year kind of makes that easy, to let them both roll. But having said that, it will be based on merit, on how they play in the show, how they play to start the year… Nothing is promised to either From them and they will gain (playtime).”
If Murray at the cap of $4.69 million for two years is a big gamble, Samsonov for half the term and a fraction of the price is more calculated.
In 94 games spread over three campaigns in Washington, Samsonov scored 0.902 saves and 3.02 goals against average. Not exactly impressive numbers, but he won more matches than he lost (53-23-10).
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan attempted to trade Samsonov in the off-season but was unable to find a partner. The organization then declined to hand him a qualifying bid of $2.2 million, letting the 2015 number one run for nothing — a decision Samsonov said surprised him “a little”.
The goalkeeper puts it back in action.
According to those close to the team, Samsonov’s ATV injury leading up to the 2020 playoffs didn’t make him love the team.
One source advised, forget the numbers.
Samsonov may be athletic and able to highlight reel moments, but he may also drift or lose his wand.
The Russian has built a reputation for conceding ill-timed soft goals in close matches that would have decimated the momentum.
“The team gave him so many opportunities to grab the first job, and he couldn’t have been more successful,” the source said.
New Leafs goalkeeper coach Curtis Sanford is embracing the challenge of Samsonoff’s rebound. Sanford traveled to Florida, where Samsonov was conducting his summer training with reigning Vienna champion Igor Shesterkin.
Emphasis was placed on improving Samsonov’s foot movement, cross-curl speed, and post work. Samsonov also chose Shesterkin’s mind for advice on strengthening his mental game.
“He does a lot of work, and he’s a very motivated guy,” coach Sheldon Cave said.
“Very nice guy. Great attitude, great approach. He speaks good English, but does his best to talk to guys.”
Before going to camp in Toronto, Samsonov spoke with colleagues Ilyas, Lyubushkin and Mikheev, to find out what it would be like under the microscope.
Samsonov smiles: “Everyone says the same: good people, a lot of media here.”
“Matt and I are both going to get some chances. It’s a really great opportunity for me. He is a nice guy. We will try to stick together, and we want to win with this team.”
Muzzin has already been sidelined
Jake Muzin was a notable absentee from the first day of his snowboard camp sessions.
A top four-back will be out until early next week as he feels a bit uncomfortable in his back.
“I feel good, I haven’t felt anything about concussion that I’ve had in the past. I feel good and ready to go for this year,” Muzin told reporters on Wednesday.
Keefe says he is not interested in the seriousness of the case.
“Today, for the most part, is one of the toughest days of the year. It was a good day to give him some extra time away,” the coach said.
The 33-year-old was limited to 47 games in 2021-22 as he struggled with multiple ailments but did well in Tampa Bay’s seven-game streak.
The Toronto Blue’s mega depth has been a hit pre-season, with RFA Rasmus Sandin still unsigned and Timothy Lilligreen (Hernia) for at least six weeks.
one timer: Calle Järnkrok started camp alongside Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting. Adam Judd skated with Jon Tavares and Mitch Marner. The new guys will get main test time for the top six…Pierre Ingvale (feet) skate in full gear on a separate cushion. He is ruled out until October 3rd….goalkeeper Joseph Wall (shoulder) and striker Mikhail Abramov (back) are still recovering from injuries… The team has been split into two groups that will host the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday with a pre-season double… . The Maple Leafs’ training camp playlist – turned 11 – was very inspired by the Super Bowl LVI halftime show and the Dr.Dre family tree. A constant stream of Old NWA, Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, and The Game. He threw a little future and Drake into the good meter. No complaints here.
Maple Leafs Lines Day 1
Darsa – Matthews – Levernrock
Aston Race – Kampf – Anderson
ROBERTSON – CURREFOT – UP – KOPEL
Riley – Brody
Ben – Mate
Kokkonen – Villeneuve
Judit – Tavares – Marner
Malgen – Holmberg – Nylander
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Abruzese
Steves – Douglas – Ellis
Giordano – Hall
Kral – Dahlstrom
Al Rifai – Hollowell