Former NHL goaltender Mike McKenna gives his Daily face-to-face Start of the goalkeeper match of the day for Monday. April 10, 2023:
Why I love this game:
All salute the Lyon King. Seriously, who made Alex Lyon win six straight games for the Florida Panthers in the stretch run on their bingo card? Person. But the 30-year-old Yale graduate propelled the Panthers into an Eastern Conference Wild Card slot. Tonight he will face Ilya Samsonov, the undisputed starter for the Maple Leafs when the Stanley Cup playoffs kick off next week.
To monitor :
Lyon have been incredibly good in their last six games, winning them all and posting a 0.956 save percentage. Can he continue? That’s the big question. The Panthers didn’t play great defense but Lyon were able to bail out their team. At some point, every goalie’s luck runs out.
The saving grace for Lyon is that not only has his confidence been built over the course of the race, but his technical game is quite strong as well. He’s always been a cerebral goaltender, and there’s no doubt that working with Florida Charlotte Checkers goaltending coach Leo Luongo has been a good game. At 30, that run could propel Lyon into a full-time NHL job next season with the right team.
The 2022-23 NHL season was the best of Samsonov’s career. He has a .917 save percentage in 41 games. And with Leafs goalie partner Matt Murray out with a head injury, the keys to the Toronto compound belong to Samsonov. Samsonov has been more consistent this year than in previous campaigns. His interviews have been playful and it looks like he’s having a lot of fun.
But there are concerns. Samsonov always tends to drop early. He sometimes continues the game, slipping without a clear decision. And despite posting a reasonable .907 save percentage during the playoffs, Samsonov has a Stanley Cup Playoff record of just 1-6. Tonight is on point. A chance to check out all the goalie boxes he worked on with Leafs goalie coach Curtis Sanford.
What fantasy owners should do:
Lyon has been a boon for fantasy owners, and Florida’s relatively easy schedule has helped it thrive. But tonight is a different animal against the Maple Leafs. At some point his run has to end, and tonight’s game makes me nervous. As for Samsonov, he’s had some big games recently against top NHL teams. In his last outing against the Panthers on March 29 – and loss in overtime – the Leafs goaltender allowed three goals on 29 shots. Florida can fill the net, so I would be careful starting Samsonov.
Conclusion for Alex Lyon:
At this stage, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Conclusion for Ilya Samsonov:
Toronto has three games left in the regular season, and Samsonov will likely play two. He just needs quality outings that he can feel good about.