The Toronto Maple Leafs completely overhauled the goaltending position in the offseason bringing in new personnel both on and off the ice. Off the ice they parted ways with goaltending coach Steve Briere. Toronto brought in Curtis Sanford as the new goaltending coach as well as added Jon Elkin as part of the player development department. Toronto also made significant organizational changes on the roster which are well documented. Out was Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek.
In their place are the tandem of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonsov. Entering this season there was much fan fare and criticism facing the new tandem of Maple Leaf goaltenders. Many questioned if Matt Murray could stay healthy or was this going to be a bad case of deja vu a la Mrazek last season. Also there was the question of if he could rediscover what made him successful early on with Penguins. Then there is Ilya Samsonov. A 25 year old former first round pick of the Washington Capitals. So much potential and just entering his prime but still much too prove. It was intriguing to see the Capitals seemingly give up on a goaltender of his pedigree.
Early on the injury bug hit Toronto hard. Matt Murray made just one start in the season opener before falling to an abductor injury that put him on the shelf for over a month. Ilya Samsonov unfortunately also followed suit going down with a groin injury as well. This put Erik Kallgren holding the reigns within the opening couple weeks of the season. Another wrinkle for Toronto thanks to cap constraints and being maxed on contracts the Maple Leafs had to make a couple moves as the only other options in net were unavailable as Joseph Woll was injured and only other netminder that was under NHL contract was 2022 fourth round pick Dennis Hildeby. However he was on loan to Farjestad BK. So the first move that was made was waiving Nicolas Aube-Kubel who was claimed by the Capitals which then opened a contract spot to sign Keith Petruzzelli to an NHL.
The crease was Erik Kallgren’s to man. While holding the down the fort Kallgren posted a record of 3-2-4 with a 2.67 goals against average. While sporting a .898 save percentage giving up 25 goals on 246 shots in the 10 games he saw action (stats courtesy of hockey-reference.com). Not the most spectacular numbers for the third stringer but to his defense the team in front of him was not playing great either. Kallgren held his ground and did what he could do to help Toronto weather the storm. Petruzzelli did not see any in game action, he only dressed as the back up in his time filling in. Once Toronto finally had both goaltenders healthy the tides turned. The stats don’t lie as shown below.
As the statistics show Matt Murray put up some outstanding numbers when he played. As shown in November when returning from his injury he was unbeaten in regulation during the month. His numbers remained solid in December despite a couple rough starts.
Samsonov was great early on prior to his injury putting up solid numbers in October. Once he returned it was like he didn’t miss a beat as his record showed November on including two shutouts in December. However there was a bit of dip in his performance in his last start in December which was his only loss of the month. His performance through three games in January he him posting a 1-1-1 record with a 2.94 GAA and a .883 save percentage. Meanwhile Matt Murray’s record prior to Saturday night was 2-1 while sporting a 2.67 GAA to go with a .916 save percentage. While as of late their has been a couple performances as of late that have raised some concerns. These bad games have also been coupled with the defensive side of game that hasn’t been up to the standard that was established earlier in the season.
Overall the goaltending as we enter the second half of the schedule for the Maple Leafs has been great. As long as both can remain healthy along with the team not straying away from the structured defensive game that head coach Keefe has ingrained in this club and provided the results thus far, the sky is the limit. The only real question remains is which netminder will finally take the reigns and go on a run. Time will tell but for now lets enjoy the ride.