Samsonov’s statistics were not aided at all Metallurg’s having lost key personnel in the off season. Nor, we can speculate, did it help that he happens to be on the same team as one of the KHL’s all-time great goalies, Vasiliy Koshechkin. And there’s the little matter of the possible concussion Samsonov suffered in early November.
That said, Samsonov played well down the stretch, and the available stats suggest the hype surrounding him last year may have been well-founded.
In the recently concluded 2017-18 regular season, Samsonov played 26 games–one fewer game than the previous season. Nevertheless, he saw roughly 200 more minutes of ice-time and 61 more shots on net. His save percentage was .926, down a full percentage point from 2016-2017’s .936.
Those still-respectable numbers, coupled with the added playing time and the fact that this year’s fifth-seeded Metallurg team is a far cry from last year’s Conference-winner, indicate Samsonov handled the more challenging workload well.
What’s more, in the last few months of the regular season, Samsonov saw much more regular playing time than earlier on (though the coaching staff still clearly favored Koshechkin in tougher match-ups). Samsonov posted two shutouts in his last five regular-season games, though both were against last-place Yugra.
On Sunday, in Game One of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Samsonov had an excellent .941 save percentage, stopping 32 of 34 shots against a speedy, aggressive, and higher-seeded Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. Samsonov fought off some deadly looking scoring chances and kept Metallurg in the game, bailing out his defenders despite their being out-shot 34-29.
Metallurg coach (and ex-Cap) Viktor Kozlov showed his confidence in Samsonov by starting the young netminder in Game Two on Monday. Samsonov only managed a .909 save percentage in the second of his back-to-back appearances, a 2-1 loss. But the goals he let in were the products of defensive breakdowns that typified Metallurg’s play this season.
All that brings us to the elephant in the room: Where will Samsonov play next year? Samsonov himself indicated a willingness to come to North America, even if it means playing in the AHL below the Caps’ more-established prospects.
Meanwhile, Metallurg’s management stated in December that it would like to extend Samsonov’s KHL contract.
“We told [Samsonov] that, if you’re going to play in the NHL, then go. But if it’s in some other league, then there’s no point,” explained team vice-president Gennadiy Velichkin in an interview with TASS.
Velichkin’s statement came on the heels of a dinner meeting between Caps GM Brian MacLellan and Samsonov, as well as rumors of a “verbal agreement” between the Caps and Samsonov that he will sign an entry-level NHL contract for next season.
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