The Toronto Maple Leafs ended Florida Panthers’ six-game winning streak with a 2-1 overtime victory on Monday night. The victory was a significant achievement because the Panthers were one of the hottest teams in the league.
Maple Leafs’ fans who saw the game witnessed an impressive performance by Auston Matthews, who scored his 40th goal of the season. But the best player in the game was Ilya Samsonov. He was simply amazing, stopping 46 pucks and allowing only one to get past him.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Knies, Jarnkrok, Simmonds & More
Two New Members of the Maple Leafs Game Roster
Also interesting was the fact that the Maple Leafs added two new players to their roster. One was junior goalie Nick Chenard who backed up Samsonov because salary-cap concerns didn’t allow Joseph Woll to travel with the team.
But the most anticipated newcomer was Matthew Knies. Knies was a second-round pick for the Maple Leafs in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut just two days after finishing his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota. Despite the quick turnaround, Knies managed to play for over 13 minutes in the game and took 18 shifts.
Knies Debut Was Memorable
Knies Maple Leafs’ debut had to have been a memorable one. It was a great game, with tons of tension. And Knies took his place among the Maple Leafs’ stars.
After the game, Knies received praise from head coach Sheldon Keefe, who focused on how well he had handled the whole situation. In the video below, you can see Keefe speaking about Knies ordeal just getting ready to suit up and play.
Coach Keefe was pleased with Knies’ play and thought he did a good job. He felt that the pace of the game didn’t faze him and that he was quick on his feet, making smart plays with the puck. Keefe admitted that Knies made a couple of mistakes, but he felt that mistakes are good because they allow players to learn and adjust their game.
Interestingly, and a completely new thought, Keefe acknowledged it hadn’t been an easy journey for Knies, given what he’s been through with a devastating loss and a long season. That part made sense to me.
However, I hadn’t considered that Knies had to go through all the medical processes normally done during training camp. Those all had to be done on game day due to the circumstances. I understood the heartbreaking loss. But I didn’t think about the fact that the NHL required Knies to go through the battery of tests he endured – and so quickly.
Keefe also mentioned that, when he spoke to Knies before warm-up, he was still talking to doctors and going through the medical exams. Despite all the challenges, Keefe thought Knies handled the situation well. He was involved in the game, and supported by his teammates.
Related: 10 Noteworthy Points from Maple Leafs’ 7-1 Rout of Canadiens
Knies Reflects on the Situation from His Own Perspective
In a second postgame interview, Knies reflected on his NHL debut. First, he thought the moment was surreal. For him, playing with the Maple Leafs was a big step up from college hockey. He admitted that the speed and heaviness of the players were big adjustments. However, he believed that the more games he played, the better he would get adjusted to the pace.
Knies also spoke about playing alongside his biggest influence, Auston Matthews. Both players grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, so that connection makes sense. Knies noted that it was a special experience for him to share the ice with him.
When he was asked if there was ever any doubt about joining the Maple Leafs right after his college season finished, Knies shared that it was a tough decision. However, he ultimately felt that it was the best idea for him and he wanted to contribute to the team.
Overall, Knies’ debut performance was promising. He hit the team at a perfect time if he’s seeking excitement. The playoffs are only two games away.
After his successful collegiate career and his successful first game in the NHL, it would seem that Knies has a bright future ahead of him in professional hockey.
Related: Maple Leafs Quick Hits: O’Reilly, Nylander & Knies
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April 11, 2023 at 7:49 am
I was skeptical, but Knies had a good showing. Look forward to what he can do next year.
April 11, 2023 at 10:45 am
Knies joining the team exposed the folly of playing fast and loose on the fringes of the cap with the emergency call up rules. It looks like Samsonov will be forced to start again tonight in the 2nd night of back to backs.
Meanwhile, there are 4 NHL contracted goalies sitting idle back in Toronto because Leafs’ brass felt that signing Knies was more important than the risk of wearing out their playoff starter.
We can only hope that Samsonov comes through this unscathed and that Knies meets expectations. In any event it is a lousy gamble that should not have been made.
April 11, 2023 at 1:08 pm
Again and again Dubas displays his ongoing ignorance about goalies and messes it up. No way ever should a U of T goalie be the backup! No way at the very end of season, heading into playoffs should either of the top 2 goalies, especially in the Leafs’ circumstance, be doing a back to back! Those are called critical GM mistakes.
April 11, 2023 at 12:39 pm
Allowing 46 shots on your own net while only scoring one in regulation is a recipe for disaster in the playoffs.
Pingback: Maple Leafs' Goalie Issues: How Come & Now What?
April 11, 2023 at 1:19 pm
Knies did make a couple of mistakes, one pretty bad but overall did well for a newbie jumping in near the end of the season when it’s faster and coming straight from junior. However, he got hit very badly at one point and was lucky to not get injured including a concussion. This is a huge risk in rushing playing into the NHL. A properly managed team would not do that to Knies.