The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. They haven’t even won a playoff series since 2004. Don’t tell any of that to Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov, however.
Samsonov is not lacking confidence as his team prepares to begin their run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In fact, he told the media on Saturday that the Maple Leafs are “probably the best team in the league.”
“We have the best doctors, best therapists, best workout coaches. We have the best coaches, we have the best players,” the Maple Leafs goaltender said.
Let’s be clear: his words didn’t carry a cocky or aggressive tone. This is not the modern version of Mark Messier’s guarantee in 1994. However, Samsonov’s words will certainly be bulletin board material for a couple of teams.
First, the Boston Bruins. Boston completed the greatest regular season in history this year. They set a new NHL record for most wins (65) and most points (135) in 2022-23.
The Bruins are certainly the odds-on favorite to win it all this year. Should Boston and Toronto advance, the two teams would meet in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
More relevant to the Maple Leafs right now, however, are the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay is set to face off with the Maple Leafs in round one for the second consecutive year. Toronto fell in seven games to the Lightning last season.
The Lightning are the closest team to a dynasty the NHL has at this point. Tampa has won the Eastern Conference three years running, winning the Stanley Cup back to back in 2020 and 2021.
Of course, its hard to hold it against Samsonov to have the confidence he has in his team. If he isn’t confident his team is the best, why play for them in the first place?
In any event, these words will certainly be revisited as the Stanley Cup Playoffs unfold. Only time will tell if these words are poorly or like the finest of wines.