MAPLE LEAFS NOTES: Only option for struggling Samsonov is to put in work

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The message to the struggling Ilya Samsonov from the Maple Leafs coaching staff hasn’t changed.

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“Putting in the work, it’s the only way to get through it, is to continue to work, the consistency,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We talk about consistency in all areas of the game, but at the goaltending position, there’s more technical (work) that requires precision and consistency. Continue to work on that foundation.”

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A save percentage of .855 in seven games had Samsonov 52nd in that category in the National Hockey League prior to games on Wednesday.

It’s not what the netminder nor the Leafs were expecting after he was sharp throughout much of the 2022-23 season and was seventh in save percentage. 

As for the idea that the Leafs recall Martin Jones from the Toronto Marlies as Samsonov works to get his game in shape, Jones doesn’t have great numbers with the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate.

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In four games, Jones has an .864 save percentage and was pulled in the Marlies’ 7-3 loss in Milwaukee against the Admirals on Wednesday.

Jones got the hook after he allowed three goals on 12 shots. Keith Petruzzelli made 15 saves on 18 shots in relief.

“Nothing to do with his play,” Marlies coach John Gruden told reporters regarding his decision to pull Jones.

“The team wasn’t really ready and you could see the momentum really go, so we had to get him out of there. We weren’t playing hard for him and I didn’t want to put him in a tough situation.”

Nick Abruzzese, Joseph Blandisi and Kieffer Bellows scored for the Marlies, who fell to 5-3-2. 

SUBSTANTIAL GROWTH

In its latest report, sport business publication Sportico has the Leafs at a valuation of $2.65 billion, the highest in the NHL.

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It’s an increase of 25% in the past year, as Sportico had the Leafs with a net worth of $2.12 billion in November 2022.

Next after the Leafs were the New York Rangers at $2.45 billion, followed by the Montreal Canadiens at $2.27 billion and the Chicago Blackhawks at $1.84 billion. The Boston Bruins rounded out the top five most valuable NHL franchises at $1.78 billion.

LISTEN AND LEARN

Part of the education for Matthew Knies in playing on a line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner comes in observing how the superstars interact with each other during games. 

“It’s fun to see that chemistry on the ice, the way they can find each other, the way they can talk,” Knies said. “What I see on the bench is they’re not afraid to get on each other. 

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“When one needs to get going, they’re not afraid to speak and I love that about those guys. They really care, they really want to push themselves, and I think they both make each other better and that affects me as well.”

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SWEDEN BECKONS

Once the Leafs are done with the five-game home stand, they will travel to Stockholm on Monday night to take part in the NHL’s latest Global Series, with games against Detroit and Minnesota on Nov. 17 and Nov. 19 respectively. 

“I look at it as a great opportunity for us to be together and have some fun playing some important games and embracing the Swedish people, the Swedish community, especially with the ties that it has had to the organization here for a long time,” Leafs captain John Tavares said. “It’s just part of the grind and a unique opportunity, you have to embrace it and try to enjoy it.”

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Tavares reminded that the Leafs have some work to get done in Toronto before the trip, including games against Calgary and Vancouver on Friday and Saturday respectively.

And Keefe wasn’t biting on the Sweden questions just yet.

“You wouldn’t have anything to ask me next week so I’ll hang on to that,” Keefe said. “We have three games in four nights (which started Wednesday versus Ottawa), the busiest stretch we’ve had in terms of volume of games. We’re going to put the focus on the home games here first.”

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LOOSE LEAFS

Defencemen Jake McCabe (groin) and Conor Timmins (lower body) both took part in the morning skate on Wednesday. It’s expected McCabe will practise on Thursday, but Timmins isn’t at the same timeline in his recovery. Keefe said Timmins will go with the team to Sweden and likely will take part in practice there, but won’t be ready to return to the lineup for a while … Keefe on the Leafs’ penalty kill, which was 24th in the NHL at 71.8% before the game against the Senators: “We need to execute better. We haven’t had a lot of (penalty-killing drills in practice) this season. That has been a bit of a change for us. We’ve done less of that as a group, so we’re going to try to rev that up and get it going.”

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