Time to Send a Message
For Andrew Raycroft, it's a statement game, pure and simple.
Time to show every doubting Maple Leaf fan and observer of the hockey club that he is worthy of holding the status of the team's No. 1 goalie, both now and next year and even when and if Justin Pogge is ready to be an NHLer.
Beating Carolina is all the Leafs need to do, whether it's 1-0 or 9-8.
But for Raycroft, who has convinced pretty much no one that he is the answer in net for the Leafs this season, 1-0 would be a lot better.
There are many who would make excuses for Raycroft's inconsistencies, and some of those excuses even hold water.
This is, really, only his third full NHL season, and perhaps the ups and downs go with the learning process.
I get that.
But at this point it doesn't really matter what the reasons may or may not be.
It's time to deliver the goods.
Some would suggest that Raycroft is at a disadvantage because his team gives up more shots and scoring chances.
The stats, however, don't really bear that out. Martin Brodeur faces an average of 27.8 shots per game, and Roberto Luongo faces 29.1 shots per game.
Based on the argument that Raycroft is under siege every night, you'd expect his average night to be a 31-32 shot bombardment, right?
Nope. He sits at an average of 28.1, barely more than Brodeur and less than Luongo.
Yet his save percentage and goals-against average are so much worse.
The Leafs hope he's going to get better next season and beyond, and perhaps that will happen.
But he needs to stand up now. Tonight. This is one of four games the Leafs have left against teams they're jostling with for a playoff spot, and losing tonight would pretty much mean they'd have to finish 6-0 the rest of the way.
In that way, it's Game 7 tonight. Time for a money goalie to step forward.