This is a different style article for me, but it is something that I wanted to write about during the Maple Leafs bye week heading into the All-Star Game in Toronto. Some of you will look at the title and ask what you know about goaltending and, nonetheless, NHL goaltending. I have been a hockey player since I was four and went between the pipes at 24. In almost six years of playing the position, I have picked up skills, techniques, and a gear obsession that isn’t cheap, but I have also picked up something else that isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. That is the mental toll playing the position can take on an individual.
We have seen it countless times with goalies going from incredibly hot to ice cold, and it has happened to me and recently to Maple Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov. In December, he compiled a record of 1-1-3, including three losses to league basement dwellers Columbus and Buffalo; along the way, he was sent down for two weeks for a conditioning stint. In all reality, the conditioning stint was a chance for the man that is called Sammy to get his head right and get back into the right frame of mind, and it has worked; since returning, Samsonov has gone 3-1 with a 1.48 GAA and an SV% of .948. Plus, last Wednesday, he got a 1-0 shutout win while making 32 saves and was serenaded with chants of Sammy Sammy by the Scotiabank Faithful.
"It's unbelievable, you know, like I almost cried."
Ilya Samsonov, when asked about his reaction to the crowd chanting his name during a dominant performance. 👏 pic.twitter.com/vthA1gqZyQ
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 25, 2024
— TML Weekly (@tmlweekly) January 29, 2024
Now, where does the mental health part of this kick in? Well, you know that feeling when you screw up the littlest of tasks, and it seeps into your head, and you can’t fix it when a goalie is having a bad day at the office? It is like that but turned up to 10. It sucks you think that the easiest of shots are always going to get past you, and it is mistake after mistake. It is something that you think you can’t correct and, in turn, can be incredibly hard on yourself, why you may ask. It is because all goalies strive for perfection, and the darkness can quickly creep in when it doesn’t go that way. I know Ilya and I are two different goalies, but I knew exactly what he was going through at the end of the day. Now, he is poised for a second-half run where he hopes to help the Leafs get to the playoff success that the players and the fans so desperately want.
If you took the time to read my short reading, thank you, and hopefully, you all can now be less strenuous on goalies who are going through a rough patch and remember that, sure, they are pro athletes, but they are also human beings.
Hi, my name is Griff and I'm a complete sports nut. I love to play sports, watch sports and most importantly bet on sports too. If I'm not watching or betting on sports, you can find me on the golf course, between the pipes as your average beer league goaltender. Although sports take up most of my life, I also love spending time with my two dogs, streaming usually a 90's Simpson's or attempting to read more books.