Ilya Samsonov held off the Jets long enough to feature the Maple Leafs’ scorers
Image Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Some called Thursday night’s matchup a measuring stick game for the Maple Leafs, while others said the same for the Winnipeg Jets.
It seemed like the goaltending title was discussed more than anything else in this game. Ilya Samsonov started for Toronto after coming on in relief on Tuesday, while the Jets went with none other than Connor Hellebuyck.
It was the first period all Winnipeg with shots at the end of the opening frame 16-6, not in favor of Toronto.
The Maple Leafs were the first team to attack, although they weren’t the driving game for most of the game. Auston Matthews, who we’ll discuss more later, scored two quick goals in the second. His first eight seconds into the period.
It gave Toronto some life that seemed to allow Mitch Marner to contribute to the score sheet as well. It was his franchise-leading 19th-straight game with a point at home.
But that was the only goal the Jets could score thanks to Ilya Samsonov unbelievable Thursday.
Toronto scored just two goals at five-on-five, while Winnipeg dominated the shot department. By the end of the game, shots were 38-27 for the Jets – quite a margin. At five-on-five though, the shots were closer, at 29-23, still for Winnipeg.
It was a game to remember for Samsonov, though. The 25-year-old has faced the most shots – especially at home – since signing with the Maple Leafs in the summer.
The 25-year-old, as we already know, scored two goals for Toronto in the second period. Amazingly enough, it was only Matthews’ second two-goal game of the season. He hasn’t had one since Nov. 5 against Boston.
Matthews is currently on pace for 43 goals this season, but if history has taught us anything, the 25-year-old can go into scoring touch after this game.
After all, he’s now on a four-game scoring streak, and has seven goals in his last eight games. So maybe his scoring tangent has already started.
It’s safe to say that Samsonov has played his way into more games over the next few weeks. Maybe playing more than Matt Murray.
He now improves to 13-4-1 on the season while sporting a .920 save percentage. The 25-year-old’s record at home is even more impressive at 12-0-1 with a .938 save percentage.
It’s really hard to tell if Riley is off to a good or bad start since returning from injury. The eye test says one thing, but the numbers say another.
Every player in Toronto could look forward to improved stats on Thursday. Riley played 20:10 and had a 40.48 CF%, good enough for seventh-best on the Maple Leafs. He had the eighth-best xGF% for Toronto, sitting at 45.77 vs. the Jets.
Just watching his play, though, Riley seems to be making better decisions on and off the puck throughout each game. Hopefully, for him and the Maple Leafs, Riley can return to the player he was last season.
If he goes there, Toronto will be in good hands as they approach the NHL trade deadline.