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Andrew Raycroft playing his best hockey of season for Leafs at right time

The Canadian Press
By:
The Hockey News
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Andrew Raycroft playing his best hockey of season for Leafs at right time

The Canadian Press
By:

As he headed into the showers after practice Friday, he was 28th in goals-against average, 2.94, and 32nd in save percentage, .898, among all NHL netminders who have made at least 20 appearances.

The numbers don't matter. The important thing is that he's been playing his best hockey when it matters most. The Leafs, locked in a battle for a playoff spot that looks as if it'll go down to the schedule's last weekend, have won three in a row and six of their last eight, and Raycroft has been a big factor in the resurgence.

"We've played well," he said. "There've been shots on net but there haven't been a lot of three-on-ones and breakaways.

"We haven't taken a lot of penalties either. It's a lot easier when it's five-on-five rather than five-on-four all night. That makes a huge difference."

There has been a huge difference in Raycroft's personal life lately, too. The American he's to wed at the end of June on Cape Cod moved in with him a month ago.

That, plus the good vibes around the Leafs of late, have made Raycroft a happy man.

"It's a lot more fun to come to the rink, for sure," he says. "Confidence is a big thing in this game and, as a team as a whole, we have that right now."

He's had a great attitude through thick and thin so it's easy to wish him well.

The 26-year-old native of Belleville, Ont., was under tremendous pressure from the first day he walked into the Leafs' dressing room last autumn.

"I understand it," he said. "That's the case all the time in this city.

"I understand that. I knew that coming in. You just believe in yourself and keep working hard and believe in the rest of the guys and know that if you work hard it turns around.

"I've only been here a few months. So far, so good. I've had some ups and downs but for the most part I can look back and not have any regrets about how I've handled it."

Goaltending will be so important down the stretch and Raycroft embraces the responsibility that will rest on his shoulders.

"I'd rather been in that position than not," he said. "I take a lot of pride in the fact everybody is kind of counting on me.

"It's up to me to work hard and do the best I can to live up to that."

Raycroft is candid and intelligent and never ducks reporters' questions. It comes naturally because he's never worked with a sport psychologist or taken a course on how to deal with the media.

"The way I was brought up and raised is that you show respect to people," he explained. "That way, you get respect back.

"I understand you guys have a job to do just like I do. Some days are easier than others but I understand that I have to stand here and answer questions. It's part of my responsibility. It goes with the territory."

The stats suggest he's not been one of the best goalies in the league this season but, if there was an award for attitude, Raycroft would be a finalist.

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Andrew Raycroft playing his best hockey of season for Leafs at right time