Former Washington Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov is no stranger to Alex Ovechkin’s shot, having faced it for three straight years before heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But now, he says that Auston Matthews may be giving the Great 8 a run for his money.
In a preseason presser, reporters asked Samsonov to compare Matthews and Ovechkin’s shot, and choose whose was harder. Samsonov’s answer may be a bit surprising.
“Matthews right now,” Samsonov responded, per NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger.
Samsonov played up with the Capitals from 2019 to 2022, where he faced Ovechkin’s shot in practice every day. In his three seasons in D.C., the 25-year-old struggled with consistency and finished his tenure with a .902 save percentage and 2.81 GAA. After a lackluster showing in 2021-22, Samsonov hit free agency for the first time after not receiving a qualifying offer from Washington. He then signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he will form a 1A/1B tandem and compete for the No. 1 role with Matt Murray.
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The Capitals brought in veteran and 2022 Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper on a five-year deal to be the new starter, while also inking Charlie Lindgren to a three-year, $3.3 million contract as the backup. They replace both Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, who is now with the New Jersey Devils.
Matthews led the league with 60 goals last season, while Ovechkin finished fourth with 50 goals. It marked the Washington captain’s record-tying ninth 50-goal season, as he also passed Jaromir Jagr as the greatest European goal scorer of all time. Entering 2022-23, Ovechkin is at 780 career goals, and is 20 away from 800, 22 from passing Gordie Howe for second and 115 from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record. He must score at least 29 goals in each of the next four seasons to break the record by the end of the extension he signed in July 2021.