Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Robertson & Matthews

The battle of the Robertson took place, and once again the younger Nick’s team beat the elder Jason’s team. This time, Nick Robertson scored two goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs to lead them to a 3-2 overtime win.

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It was a tough game, but Robertson provided a spark both offensively and defensively. The win moves the team’s record to 3-2 to start the season. The start isn’t what most fans expected, but it’s better than the alternative. 

Related: Gord Downie, Hockey, and the Tragically Hip

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the news that’s emerging from the team as it heads out on its five-game western road trip. The first game on that trip will be on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada against the Winnipeg Jets.

Item One: Have the Maple Leafs Found a Goalie in Ilya Samsonov? 

Ilya Samsonov made his third start for the Maple Leafs and tended the team to its third win. Obviously, such perfection won’t last; however, it’s good while it lasts. Furthermore, it’s something the team desperately needed – stability in the net.

Ilya Samsonov Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Samsonov, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Samsonov faced 28 shots and saved 26 of them in the team’s 3-2 overtime victory last night. He looked good when he could control what was happening, letting in a rebound later in the first period. He then had a contested goal scored against him by Tyler Seguin on a third-period power play when a pile of players got pushed into him and the puck came with them. 

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At first, the goal was disallowed for goalie interference, but a coach’s challenge awarded it to the Stars. It was decided that, in defending the crease, Mitch Marner had pushed the Stars’ player into his own goalie. That goal shouldn’t count against Samsonov’s record.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Badini & Samsonov vs. Campbell

With enough game action to settle into some statistics that make sense, Samsonov moved his record to 3-0-0, with a goals-against-average of 1.96, and a save percentage of .927.

Item Two: Nick Robertson Is Making His Case to Stay with the Maple Leafs

It would have been hard for Nick Robertson to dream of a better start to the season, except possibly for having the chance to do it from Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens. Actually, maybe this way was better. After his game-winning, overtime goal, the camera showed Robertson’s mother in the stands going crazy about her youngest NHL-playing son. Perfect.

Robertson scored two goals. However, he also brought a lot of fight, determination, and skill. For my money, he energized the team. 

First, Robertson converted Michael Bunting’s great pass into a quick-release goal. Second, he made an amazingly determined defensive play to knock the puck off an opponent’s stick and transition what might have been a Stars goal in overtime into a Maple Leafs’ win.  

Related: An American Hockey Fan’s Appreciation of Hockey Night in Canada

The entire sequence in overtime will become highlight reel history for the team. I can also see it being a cause for cheering and celebration when the team gets together to review the game film. Robertson made two great plays, and Auston Matthews made the perfect decision – in a number of ways – by putting it on his young teammate’s stick. As a fan, you’ve got to think that will happen again and again over the next few seasons. 

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I can’t see Robertson heading back to the Toronto Marlies anytime soon.

Item Three: Auston Matthews Plays His Best Game of the Season

Given that Auston Matthews’ goal this season was a redirection, it’s accurate to say that the big center has not shot a puck into the net yet this season. That said, Matthews played by far his best game of the season last night.  

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Stars, which are not considered a lightweight team, beat up Matthews all night long. He was cross-checked (no penalty), high-sticked in the face (no penalty), and finally drew a call when he was tackled and piled on behind the Stars’ net. Matthews was obviously hurt, but he kept coming. As the game wore on, he just seemed to grow more determined that his club wasn’t going to lose this game. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

As already noted, he made the perfect play on the game-winner. He also played strong defense all night long. Matthews needs a three-point game to get back to his point-a-game pace. Given the jam he showed last night, I have to believe that’s coming soon.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

For all the angst, the Maple Leafs ended their home stand with a 3-1 record. In beating the Stars, they beat a team that had been playing very well. Prior to last night’s game, Dallas hadn’t lost in three games this season. 

The three goals the Stars gave up against the Maple Leafs, which are not a ton of goals for a game, were as many as they had given up in all the games the team had played thus far on the season. It was a good win for the home team.

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