"Shoot for the balls": Leafs' Samsonov has unfortunate warmup bullseye

Mar 8 2023, 6:57 pm

Like most goalies, Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov has taken thousands of shots throughout his career.

From playing in the Russian junior and professional ranks, his time at various international competitions, or his time in the NHL with the Leafs and Washington Capitals, getting hit by the puck is nothing out of the ordinary for the 26-year-old.

Most of the shots against Samsonov, however, don’t exactly go like one errant one in warmup on Tuesday night.

Expected to be Toronto’s starter in their contest against the New Jersey Devils, there was a moment of tension when Samsonov left to go to the locker room.

So what exactly happened?

“For the balls,” Samsonov replied. “Shoot for the balls.”

Ah. Thanks for clearing that one up, Ilya.

Thankfully, he didn’t seem too shaken up by it after a couple of moments, as he managed to go the entire first period without giving up a goal, also picking up a 4-3 win on the night.

“I thought he was really good. There were a couple of really tough shots early in the game that he came up big on,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of his goalie’s performance. “Certainly, Jersey was carrying play through the first period there. We were able to tighten up defensively to the point that we kept it to the outside with perimeter shots and shots from distance at the top. I thought he was solid there.”

On the night, he made 30 saves on 33 shots against, picking up his fourth win in his last five starts.

Samsonov is 23-8-2 in 33 games with a goals-against average of 2.41 and a save percentage of .915 for the Maple Leafs this season.

The Leafs are off until Saturday, when they take on the Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Arena. Puck drop for that one is set for 7 pm ET, with the game being broadcast on Sportsnet and CBC.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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