By Joshua Kloke (The Athletic)

Ilya Samsonov didn’t know a lot about Curtis Sanford when he signed with the Maple Leafs on July 13, 2022.

Sanford had only been hired by the Leafs as their new goaltending coach eight days earlier. Before that, Sanford had spent one season as the goaltending coach with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks and four as a goalie consultant with the AHL’s Utica Comets. He’d bounced up and down between the AHL and the NHL in a 13-year pro career in North America before finishing with three seasons in the KHL.

But what Samsonov has learned is just how much Sanford can impact his game.

There were questions about how Samsonov would perform with the Leafs after the Washington Capitals opted not to qualify for the restricted free-agent pool. But Samsonov is putting together a strong season, highlighted on Monday by a 31-save 5-2 win over the New York Islanders and a .920 save percentage on the season. With the win and the strong run of form Samsonov is enjoying, it’s fair to wonder if he currently has the edge over Matt Murray as the Leafs’ de facto No. 1 goalie. Sheldon Keefe said after Monday’s win that he had reviewed some of Samsonov’s game with Sanford.

“(Sanford) felt this was as strong a game as (Samsonov) has played in terms of what he’s asking of him,” said Keefe.

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