Make your case: The Maple Leafs’ No. 1 goaltender

Make your case: The Maple Leafs’ No. 1 goaltender

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The race to become the Toronto Maple Leafs’ No. 1 goalie has begun in earnest.

Ilya Samsonov He showed what he can do Saturday by stopping all 16 shots he faced in two periods in a 4-2 preseason loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Matt Murray He is expected to get his first chance Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Each goaltender enters his first season with the Maple Leafs. Samsonov, who signed a one-year contract on July 13, is 79-52-22 with a 2.81 goals-against average, .902 save percentage and 6 steals in his first three NHL seasons with the Washington Capitals. Murray was acquired for two draft picks in a July 11 trade with the Senators. The 28-year-old is a two-time Stanley Cup champion for the Pittsburgh Penguins and is 132-78-22 with a 2.77 GAA, .911 save percentage and 14 shutouts in seven NHL seasons.

A team that hasn’t won a first-round series since 2004 will rely heavily on each goaltender, but who should start the season No. 1?

Here’s a question posed by NHL.com writers Tom Guletti and Mike Zeisberger in this episode:

Gold color Murray has been the No. 1 goaltender in the NHL before and helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, so I’d pick him to start for the Maple Leafs. Of course, Murray has had some tough times over the past two seasons with the rebuilding Senators since acquiring him from the Penguins on Oct. 7, 2020. That was after struggling with injuries, inconsistent play and a stint with Belleville in the American Hockey League. Last season, after being called up from Belleville on Jan. 1, he went 5-7-2 with a 2.96 GAA and a .912 save percentage before an injury forced him to miss Ottawa’s final 29 games. Playing for the Maple Leafs, who are expected to contend for the Stanley Cup, will give a healthy Murray a fresh start and should help him develop a close relationship with general manager Kyle Dubas and coach Sheldon Keefe. Dubas was the GM of Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League for three seasons. Keefe coached for two seasons while Murray played for the minor league team.

Video: Top 5 Matt Murray saves for 2021-22 season

Zeisberger: Yes, Murray won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, but that was a long time ago. He hasn’t played more than 38 games in a season since 2018-19, mainly due to injury. Of greater concern during his time with Ottawa were positional issues. Missing the net (bad positioning) is an issue when you are a stand-up goalkeeper who relies on his corners. My pick in this debate is Samsonov, who is three years younger and off to a great start in his preseason debut with the Maple Leafs. New goaltending coach Curtis Sanford traveled to Florida with the New York Rangers goaltender for Samsonov’s offseason workout. Igor Shesterkin. They worked on Samsonov’s ability to post speed and cover the bottom of the net, two improvements that showed up less than a week into training camp. In conclusion, Samsonov has a high ceiling working toward him, and recent history suggests Murray may have peaked in Pittsburgh.

Video: Top 10 Ilya Samsonov saves from the 2021-22 season.

Guilty: I agree that Samsonov has a ceiling yet to reach, and he was dealt with the Capitals when it looked like he could meet that potential. Unfortunately, that was a recurring narrative and inconsistency prevented the number 1 from keeping their job despite many opportunities. Maybe Samsonov will end up with the Maple Leafs, but Murray has at least shown in the past that he can stay healthy and play consistently behind a rebuilding team. In that 2018-19 season Mike mentioned, Murray was 29-14-6 with a 2.69 GAA, a .919 save percentage and four starts in 50 regular season games (all starts). Getting back to that level isn’t automatic, but at least Murray has shown he can do it over an extended period of time. He went 97-42-14 with a 2.62 GAA, .917 save percentage and 10 shutouts over his first four NHL seasons. Playing behind a veteran team should provide better structure for Murray to succeed.

Zeisberger: I agree that Murray’s stats were impressive in his first four NHL seasons. That was then, this is now. He is 35-36-8 over the last three seasons. The biggest concern is whether he can stay healthy. He has played 47 games in the last two games and missed time due to various ailments. And when he played, he showed brief flashes of being the difference maker the Maple Leafs need, especially in the postseason. Certainly, the same can be said about Samsonov. But in a situation like this, I’d go with the young player with a recent injury history. And that’s Samsonov.



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