Raycroft's star on rise

The Toronto Maple Leafs are on a roll thanks to the solid play of goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who...

The Toronto Maple Leafs are on a roll thanks to the solid play of goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who was named NHL player of the week on Monday. (Sun Media/Greg Henkenhaf)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Andrew Raycroft's reaction to being recognized by the National Hockey League yesterday was typical.

That's to say the Maple Leafs goaltender was happy he was named the first star by the NHL in its weekly awards for his part in three road wins last week, but the accolade did not rock his world.

"It's great, a good thing, but in the big picture of what is going on right now, winning is more important than that stuff," Raycroft said after the Leafs practised at Lakeshore Lions Arena in preparation for a two-game trip that takes them to St. Louis tonight and Nashville on Thursday.

"I don't think St. Louis is going to really care. If we win 6-5 and I don't get first star, it does not really matter to me a whole lot."

The 26-year-old Raycroft will complete a cycle of sorts when he starts his 15th game in a row for the Leafs tonight, as the Blues are the lone NHL club the Belleville native has not faced since he appeared in his first NHL game during the 2000-01 season. Had he been aware of that, Raycroft probably would not have given it much of a second thought, either.

There are plenty of differences between the team Paul Maurice coaches and the one that Pat Quinn left when he was fired last April, and a large one is the goaltender. Where Raycroft is cool and relaxed, his predecessor, Ed Belfour, was the definition of tightly wound. Don't think that kind of thing does not go unnoticed in the dressing room. Trying to tip-toe around such a valuable member of the team must not have been fun.

"The Eagle?" Wade Belak said with a laugh. "Eddie? A little more intense? Didn't want to speak to anybody on game days? I think (Raycroft) is more laid back. He is just as focused as Eddie was, he just does not take it to that level where it was, 'Don't talk to me or look at me on game day.' "

Raycroft, in the first season of a three-year pact with the Leafs, said he has no choice but to let things slide, whether they are good or bad. He did not get bent out of shape last month when he was jeered off the ice after a bad home loss to the Vancouver Canucks, nor when his game was subpar at times before Christmas.

"Some days are better than others, and I'm in a bad mood as often as anyone," Raycroft said. "I go with the flow and try to keep it in the middle as much as I can.

"Some guys need to be intense and on the edge all the time. I just don't have the energy to do that."

Has Maurice ever seen Raycroft mad?

"Yeah, I think someone stole his parking spot one day," Maurice said. "I know he has had his moments where he is upset, but to his credit, I don't think he needs to be breaking sticks out there."

Raycroft was rewarded by the NHL for stopping 28 of 29 shots against the Carolina Hurricanes, 37 of 38 against the New York Rangers and 30 of 32 against the Ottawa Senators, before winning that final game in a shootout.

Raycroft's teammates were more effusive in the fact the NHL tipped its hat.

"He has been sick lately and that's awesome," winger Bates Battaglia said. "He has taken some heat and I don't think he should have to begin with. He has been unbelievable. There is no heat coming now."


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