When Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray went down during morning skate on Saturday, it was déjà vu all over again.
The Leafs took a big risk by trading for the oft-injured Murray, who, according to Sportsnet Stats, has landed on injured reserve for the seventh time in less than five years. An adductor injury will sideline Murray for at least the next four weeks.
All eyes now turn to Ilya Samsonov, who comes with his own warning label. The reason Samsonov was available this past offseason was because the Capitals were tired of waiting for him to seize the starting job, and didn’t extend him a qualifying offer. He became a UFA one year earlier than he otherwise would have.
In his third and final season in Washington, Samsonov allowed 8.56 goals above expectation — 60th out of 65 goaltenders who played a minimum of 1,000 minutes.
Samsonov wasn’t playing behind a leaky defence, either; the Capitals gave up 12.2 slot shots per 60 minutes when he was in net last season, tied for 13th among qualified goaltenders. When opponents were able to get shots through to Samsonov from the slot, though, he struggled to stop them.
That has been an issue throughout Samsonov’s career. His .817 slot shot save percentage over his first three seasons was tied for fourth-worst among 59 goaltenders with at least 3,000 minutes played.
As Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kelly Hrudey pointed out this past weekend, Samsonov tends to let shots sneak past him, even when he appears to be in position. Capitals forward Marcus Johansson’s goal against Samsonov last week is a prime example.
Although Samsonov is off to a solid start this season, it could be short-lived if the Leafs’ defence does not hold up in front of him. He has allowed four goals on 22 slot shots, the sixth fewest faced so far among 21 goaltenders who have played 100 minutes.
Last season, Samsonov won nine of his first 11 appearances, posting a 2.27 GAA and .918 save percentage. Over his remaining 33 games, however, he had a 3.28 GAA and .889 save percentage.
Samsonov said during training camp that he turned down multi-year contract offers to sign a one-year, prove-it deal with the Leafs. He surely didn’t expect to get this opportunity so fast.
“This is why he signed here,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said on Saturday. “He’s on a bit of a mission here this season, and now the door’s really open there for him. We’re going to have to lean on him probably more than we would have.”
Data collected from Sportlogiq