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Maple Leafs Need To Fix Goal To Become Serious Cup Contender – Hockey Writers – Toronto Maple Leafs

Between Auston Matthews and William Nylander missing games in the playoffs, not much has been said about the health of the scoring tandem. A healthy goalkeeper is physically and mentally healthy, someone who thrives under pressure and draws strength from it. Should the Toronto Maple Leafs look elsewhere for quality goaltending?

What the Maple Leafs Learned About Aiming for the Playoffs

In a seven game first round series against their old enemy Boston Bruins, Ilya Samsonov was in net for five games and won only one. He was on duty for Game 1, the game that set the tone for the series, where each team made its first statement. By allowing four goals on 24 shots, Samsonov did not give the Maple Leafs a chance to win. In Game 2, he bounced back in impressive fashion in their 3-2 win, turning away 27 of the 29 shots he faced and posting a .931 save percentage (SV%). At home in Game 3, he gave up three goals on 33 shots for a .909 SV%; game where Bruins captain Brad Marchand waved off the bench to say the series would be done in five games.

In Game 4, Samsonov gave up three goals on 17 shots and head coach Sheldon Keefe had seen enough. He removed the Russian player from the game and replaced him with Joseph Woll. The 25-year-old was perfect, stopping five shots he faced within 17 minutes of hitting the net. Woll was Keefe’s pick in the next two games the Maple Leafs won. The goaltender was the first to score a 2-1 victory to push the series to Game 7, but with an injury in the dying moments of Game 6, he sat out the final game.

His absence in Game 7 was a big risk for the Maple Leafs and Woll, who have been plagued by injuries for the past few years. In 2022, a shoulder injury followed by a sprained ankle prevented him from participating in training camp. Then in 2023, he suffered another high ankle sprain and, in the playoffs, it was a sprained back that prevented him from playing in the decider. However, even though the Maple Leafs lost in Game 7, Samsonov played a great game until the game-winning goal where he could come out of the net to prevent David Pastrnak from getting the puck and put the final nail in the Maple Leafs’ coffin. .

The lesson from another early spring outing is that the crouch is an important position, requiring not only depth but confidence. If there’s one place you can’t have a rollercoaster performance, it’s on the net. Samsonov says he likes the city and everyone in the team and would like to sign a new contract, with some time on it, so that things are under control for his family.

Where Do Maple Leaves Go From Here?

Woll has one year left on his contract, but while he has shown he can play well under pressure, there is little in his injury history. Is it all down to bad luck or are you prone to injury? Committing to an injury-prone goalie can be a terrible mistake, just ask Garth Snow about his 15-year contract with Rick DiPietro (this was before the league decided that teams could only sign their juniors to eight-year contracts and those who performed well. They weren’t in the organization to seven-year deals).

Related: Joseph Woll Has Best Goalie Developed in 35 Years

Woll has shown incredible skill and performance in the playoffs, but you have to plan for another injury. To do that, you need a good goal to back him up, not Martin Jones. Jones is 34 years old and his best years are undoubtedly behind him. As for Samsonov, the Jekyll and Hyde act that dragged us into the playoffs is not really encouraging, even if he would like to come back, I’m not sure the Maple Leafs are ready for another rollercoaster ride.

Who can the Maple Leafs turn to to ensure stability that will inspire confidence in the net? However, they have Dennis Hildeby in their roster who looked good in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Marlies last season, but I doubt he can be the answer yet, as some extra seasoning would help him.

Who Will Be Available In Free Agency This Summer?

The first name that comes off the list is Jeremy Swayman. The Bruins won’t be able to keep their All-Star tandem together for long, Swayman will want to get paid. Linus Ulmark’s cap hit currently stands at $5 million and it’s hard to imagine Swayman getting anything less than that. He started a lot of games for Boston and has good numbers, not by much but still…I’d like to see the reaction to the offer sheet, as long as Toronto can find the space to do it.

Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Laurent Brossoit however is an unrestricted free agent and had good numbers in 23 games last season. At 31 years old, the career backup has no interest in playing north of the border as he was born in British Columbia. After a brief stint in Las Vegas, he returned to Winnipeg last season where he had a 15-5-3 record with a 2.00 goals against average (GAA) and a .927 SV%. Plus, he wasn’t that expensive with a cap hit of $1.75 million.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen of the Buffalo Sabers is also trending in the right direction with improving numbers each season and perhaps with Devon Levi coming in, they will have to test their scoring ability. The Sabers have time, however, as Luukkonen is only a restricted free agent.

The nature of his goaltending is certainly something that general manager Brad Treliving will have to watch soon. With so few options open in free agency, could a trade be made to fill a need? Time will tell, but whatever the weather is like this summer, it’s going to be hot for Treliving.

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