Maple Leafs 2 – Bruins 1 (P) | So they had a guard…

And to think that all this time, a solution was right there, at the end of the bench.

Maybe not the only solution. Because it still took a goal in overtime following a capricious jump for the Toronto Maple Leafs to escape Boston with a 2-1 victory. But a solution, and a good one? Certainly.

One might reasonably wonder why Joseph Woll was only given the Toronto net in the fifth game, when his team, deprived of its best attacker, was fighting for survival.

The Missouri native was simply sensational. During the first 40 minutes, during which he sometimes went for long periods without receiving shots. Over the next 20, as the Bruins, after watching the Leafs struggle, slowly stepped on the accelerator. But especially during the short overtime period.

The Bruins, obviously, didn’t want to cross the border again for a sixth game. They quickly put four shots on target, including one at close range from Charlie Coyle, posted in the slot. Woll instinctively stretched the pad. A little over a minute later, Knies met everyone on Thursday in the Queen City.


Matthew Knies (23) scoring the winning goal in overtime

It’s not as if Woll’s brilliance comes as a surprise. The American has been, by far, his club’s best goalkeeper this season. Before the campaign even began, last October, we heard in Toronto that he would steal the number one position from the very unstable Ilya Samsonov. And that’s essentially what happened, in just a few weeks.

However, at the beginning of December, Woll suffered a serious ankle injury which required him to recover for almost three months. His absence was so long that Samsonov, in the meantime, had time to experience a descent into hell, to be transferred to the American League, to be recalled and to reacquaint himself with success.

Upon his return to health, the rookie goaltender had a few more hazardous starts, so much so that his comrade found his net for good at the end of the season and started the series against the Bruins.


Recent history has taught us: things haven’t really gone well for 10 days for Samsonov. Nor for his team, for that matter. The loud cries to denounce the timidity of the attack were not uttered at random. The goalkeeper, therefore, was not the only one to blame, on the contrary.

However, the refrain was repeated for the Russian, who had not been up to par last year. He certainly had good moments against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, but struggled in the next round against the Florida Panthers, until he was injured in the third game. He was then, well, replaced by Joseph Woll.

The latter then won the fourth match thanks to an inspired performance and kept his club in the game until extra time in the following duel. But the Panthers were too strong.

So here we are in 2024, in a series where everything seemed to go against the Maple Leafs. Faced with the Bruins in great shape and a goalkeeper, Jeremy Swayman, in a state of grace, Toronto’s offensive leaders were silent, almost mute. And Samsonov was ordinary, at best. Regardless, as usual under the reign of head coach Sheldon Keefe, we were patient. Until we weren’t anymore and Woll was called in for reinforcements in the third period last Saturday, in a lost cause.

On Tuesday, the forecasts were therefore not encouraging. And Auston Matthews, ill, had to forfeit this sensitive match. In his absence, the Leafs offense nevertheless had a pretty good game, without creating many quality scoring chances.

So a flight was necessary. And Woll gave it to them. Our eyes have seen everything about theft, and so have the advanced statistics. The MoneyPuck site estimates that the Leafs conceded three anticipated goals (xG). Woll gave in once; he therefore saved two goals. His club won by one goal. Flight confirmed.

After the meeting, the 25-year-old goalkeeper told journalists on site that he was experiencing “the best moments of (his) life”. His teammate Matthew Knies said he feels “safe” when Woll is in net. Words full of meaning.

Nothing is won yet for the Leafs, who still trail 3-2 in this series. Their flaws are still numerous – the lack of depth in attack, in particular, is striking – and we do not yet know if Matthews will be able to play. It will therefore be necessary to keep the celebrations sober and short.

Nothing is won for the Bruins either, mind you. They were in full control of their first round duel against the Panthers last year, and yet saw their 3-1 lead melt away. They still have a lot to prove.

It is therefore clear that we have a series. A good one, too. We won’t complain about it.


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