The Maple Leafs’ five-alarm goaltending fire made its annual appearance in just 23 games on Thursday when Joseph Woll fell victim to a leg injury.
Toronto’s one steady netminder was helped off the ice in the third period of a 4-3 victory at Ottawa. The team had a day off on Friday so it will be at least one more day before an update is given about Woll’s condition, but coach Sheldon Keefe has already indicated that the 25-year-old is expected to be out for a while.
So here is the current state of the sentries who protect the crease: Matt Murray is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery; the erratic Ilya Samsonov hasn’t played since Nov. 24 because he needed a mental re-set and has since fallen ill; Woll is hobbled; and 33-year-old Martin Jones may at least temporarily become the go-to guy.
One has to hand it to Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving for having had the foresight to sign the veteran goalkeeper who stepped in and earned the win against the Senators and may start against the Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday evening.
Injuries happen but it is hard to look back and find a time in recent history in which the Maple Leafs haven’t been knee-capped in the net. Frederik Andersen. Jack Campbell. Petr Mrazek. Murray. Samsonov. Woll.
Where is Michael Hutchinson when you need him? How old is Cujo, again?
Woe is we.
Samsonov began the season as the starter until he played himself onto the bench. Woll took over, gained confidence in himself and the confidence of his teammates but now he is nicked up, too. He had started five successive games when the injury bug bit him. At the time, he was 8-5-1 with a more-than-serviceable .916 save percentage. This for a team whose defensive corps is a patchwork quilt.
Jones has played 445 games in the NHL so he wasn’t a jumble of nerves when called upon to replace Woll. He stopped nine of 10 shots and the Maple Leafs returned home happy. Jones was on the bench after being called up from the AHL Marlies on an emergency basis because of Samsonov’s illness.
All in all, he offers pretty good insurance for a pittance of an (NHL) salary of US$875,000.
“He is a veteran goalie so a situation like tonight wouldn’t rattle him,” Keefe said afterward. “His confidence and faith are high. This is the exact reason why he is here.”
As a whole, Toronto’s gaggle of goalies look more and more like a tattered Minuteman from the Revolutionary War.
Woll had already made 28 saves before he stopped a shot and then immediately cringed and went face down. Ryan Reaves and T.J. Brodie each took an elbow and skated him to the bench.
“It was brutal,” Mitch Marner said. “Hopefully the news comes back somewhat positive.”
Woll has had a few leaky performances but overall there hasn’t been much to complain about. He has seemed to get better and better the more he has played.
“It’s unfortunate,” Keefe said. “He has been playing so well and building great momentum but this is a setback here now. He is going to miss some time for sure.”
The Maple Leafs are 13-6-4 and sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division. They could be better but with injury-strafed defencemen and goalies getting carted off they could be a heck of a lot worse, too.
Jones only learned that he would dress for Thursday’s game that same morning. Then he was rushed into action.
“It’s tough to watch,” he said of Woll’s injury. “You don’t want to see that. Hopefully he is okay and will come back quickly.”
He has seen it before.
“I just tried to get my head into the game and get ready to go,” Jones said.
He came in and earned a win – and a save.
“I thought he was great,” said Morgan Rielly, the Toronto defenceman. “It’s not the easiest spot to go into but he has played for a long time.”