The home team has won all four games in this series. Does that trend hold for the Nuggets, now that they are back in Denver for Game 5? You can watch the game on Sportsnet or SN NOW or follow with our live tracker.
Now, suddenly, he’s the goalie of the present.
With Ilya Samsonov falling out of Toronto’s second-round series in Game 3, the Maple Leafs turned to their 24-year-old prospect — despite Matt Murray being healthy and available.
All that is on the line is the season.
No pressure, kid.
Woll has composed himself well in a season that has seen him put up gaudy numbers at the AHL level and look perfectly in place during his sporadic callups to the show.
Even better: General manager Kyle Dubas extended Woll before his breakout campaign through 2024-25 at a tidy $766,666 AAV.
We caught up with the goalie for a chat in the Leafs dressing room the day before the playoffs began, with him on the bench. Here is that conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.
SPORTSNET.CA: Ilya Samsonov is the starter. But what does this mean for you, being involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
JOSEPH WOLL: It’s pretty awesome. These past couple days, it’s really settled in. Driving to the rink thinking, I’m playing for the Stanley Cup right now. It’s pretty sweet. Like you said, it’s his net. My goal is to stay as ready as I can. It’s what I’ve been doing all year. I’m trying to do my best, to be ready when called to help this team, and along the way enjoy this moment.
You always talk about living in the moment. You practise meditation. But at what point did it occur to you: “Hey, I could be in the Maple Leafs’ playoff lineup”?
It didn’t really. [chuckles] I’ve had a lot to focus on. My goal was each game as it came along, and on our off day, my goal is to get away from the rink and rest. These past few days, it’s really kind of started to settle in, as now we’re really preparing for the playoffs. I really try not to let my mind drift too much. Really try to stay where I’m at, where my feet are. These past couple days have been great days on the ice, and I’ve felt really good with how my game has been, how my mind has been. So, I’m excited.
How is your game-day routine different when you’re backing up versus when you’re starting?
It’s a bit different. I do a little more at morning skate. I get my work done more in the morning, and then my aim is just to do whatever is necessary to be ready in case something happens. So, I’ll be ready, and I’ll do my job. I’m just looking forward to enjoying everything.
Describe your relationship with Ilya Samsonov.
It’s been great. Both him and Murr, when I’ve been with each one, has been awesome to me. And they’re both very good guys. Sammy’s very focused when he’s on the ice and at the rink, and away from it, he’s a super nice guy.
He’s a bit of a joker with us. Is he like that with teammates?
Yeah, it’s nice. He’s been very welcoming to me. I think we have a great relationship, and I’m happy to support him.
How have the other guys treated you? Do you feel like, I’m a Maple Leaf? Or do you feel like a Marlie who’s been called up?
It’s a really good question, actually. I feel very welcomed. So, I do feel very much a part of the team. With all that’s gone on over the past few months, it’s been hard. But I’ve been trying to stay where I’m at. So, if I’m here, I try my best to let myself be a Maple Leaf and not focus too much on the Marlies. And when I’m with the Marlies, I’m trying to really be there and not focus too much on the Leafs. So, I think these past few weeks have been good. Every day to spend with these guys, I feel more comfortable.
When you signed your contract extension in February 2022, was it a quick process? Were you considering going shorter term and try to prove yourself at the NHL level before committing? Because it’s looking like a good deal for the team right now, the way you’re playing.
I appreciate that. To be honest, I think it was right after I had gotten injured last year when we were sorting it out. I had hurt my knee a little bit after that, and I wasn’t even thinking about the deal because it was still [February] or whatever it was. I got a call from my agent, and he said, “We were talking about negotiating your next contract.” I hadn’t thought about it at all and had no idea what to expect. So, I was very happy with what they’d offered me, and it was a pretty quick process. I think, for me, I really want to be in Toronto. I love playing here. I love the people. I love the city. So, I don’t want to be anywhere else. So, for me committing for a longer period of time, I was very excited to. And I think they’re very fair in what they offered. I think it was a perfect deal for both of us. I would say the aim is to always try and outperform the contract. If I’m able to do that, that’s awesome. So, we’ll see what happens.
It must give you some peace of mind, I guess. There are guys in this room right now who are playing for their next contract. How they perform in these playoffs could affect that.
Just knowing that they’re committed to me for a long term, and I’m committed to being here for long term, I think it says a lot about how I feel and how they feel on the other side of it. So, it just allows me to do as well as I can every day. I don’t have to think too much, worry too much about next year or whatnot. Like, I can really just go out, stay in the moment, and give my best every day. Which, the way my mind works, is awesome.
When you first arrived here, they brought you on the road for the 2019 playoff series against the Bruins. What was the benefit to that, just soaking up NHL playoff life?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Like, over the years, I’ve gotten a little bit more experience in the playoffs. My first year was just coming in and kind of being a part team, kind of doing my own thing, which was just how everything was working. And at that time, it was amazing. It’s such a great learning experience. And then we had the [2020 playoff] bubble. And I’m around it a little bit more [as part of the taxi squad], but still not really part of the lineup. And now I’m in the lineup. It’s awesome that I’m able to take things from each experience. So, I want to be prepared and be more part of the team. Hopefully it continues down the road.