Former NHL goaltender Mike McKenna gives his Daily face-to-face Start of the goalkeeper match of the day for Wednesday. February 1, 2023:
Why I love this game:
Ullmark have lost two straight games for the first time this season. I want to see how it bounces back. And aside from a six-goal outburst against Ottawa less than a week ago, Samsonov has been solid in net for Toronto. How is he doing against Boston, the best team in the NHL?
To monitor :
It’s not like Ullmark has been bad in their last two outings. He allowed three goals in both games but faced 70 combined shots. His consistency this season has been remarkable. Only once did Ullmark allow more than three goals. And that was a long time ago on Nov. 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ullmark’s progression to being the NHL favorite for the Vezina Trophy this year has been fun to watch. He was undervalued in Buffalo. And last season, he probably tried to do too much for the Bruins. But this year he looks completely comfortable in the crease, letting the game come to him. Ullmark has a .936 save percentage and is 25-4-1 on the campaign.
There were games where Samsonov didn’t have to do much for the Maple Leafs. But I always saw him put on mega performances when Toronto weren’t at their best defensively. Samsonov isn’t the best technical goalkeeper, but he plays with a ton of arrogance when confident. And I think being part of a dynamic offensive team like Toronto helps.
Samsonov has outplayed goalie partner Matt Murray so far and in my eyes has the inside advantage going into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Maple Leafs. But there is still a lot to see. Sometimes I think Samsonov loses patience and gives up early. And it slips more than I would like to see. But his natural ability can bail him out.
What fantasy owners should do:
Start them both. Although Samsonov is the more risky of the two keepers.
Conclusion for Linus Ullmark:
Break the streak and enter the NHL All-Star Break with a boost of energy.
Conclusion for Ilya Samsonov:
Each game is a step towards permanently claiming the crease in Toronto.