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Toronto Maple Leaf fans not showing Andrew Raycroft much love

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Unfortunately for him, that hasn't yet translated into much love from those who support the team.

Raycroft was given a sarcastic cheer Saturday when he made an easy save shortly after allowing Buffalo's fourth goal - a shot by Ales Kotalik on a solo rush that Raycroft should have stopped.

Coach Paul Maurice indicated as much after the Sabres finished off a 4-3 win over Toronto.

"One in four weren't great," Maurice said of the goals allowed by Raycroft.

That said, the coach has been pleased with his goalie's play of late.

Several key injuries have made Raycroft's performance even more important and he was a positive factor in a pair of victories over Boston last week.

"The games that we've won, he's been a big part of it," said Maurice. "We will put pressure on our goaltender more right now to be good.

"I really think in the last two weeks he has been very good."

Midway through his first season in Toronto, the home fans have yet to warm to their new No. 1.

Raycroft's 3.02 goals-against average and .896 save percentage leave him behind several goalies, including Florida's Ed Belfour, the man he replaced in Toronto.

It also took Belfour some time to become a fan favourite here. He was booed during his first pre-season after signing with the team in 2002 but soon won over the home fans.

Before that, Curtis Joseph was beloved during his four seasons in Toronto as he became known for acrobatic saves and big game performances.

It hasn't come as easily for Raycroft, which befuddles his current teammates.

"That's just stupid," forward Matt Stajan said of the booing. "That's the way Toronto is. He's been there all year for us, made a lot of big saves. (Fans) can do whatever they want."

Added defenceman Pavel Kubina: "That's not right. Razor, he's been good for us the whole year. He's a good goaltender, a young goaltender. Every night he gives us a chance to win hockey games."

The fans' frustration might be linked to the team's mediocrity at Air Canada Centre this year. Toronto is 10-10-2-1 at home after losing just 12 times on home ice last season.

They're also right on the playoff bubble in the Eastern Conference and need every possible point to avoid missing the post-season for a second straight year.

The Leafs are well aware of their situation and are looking forward to games against Carolina on Tuesday, Buffalo on Thursday and Vancouver on Saturday.

"This is a big week for us coming up," said forward Alex Steen, who has four goals in his past two games. "We've got to refocus and keep competing."

The loss to Buffalo was especially frustrating for the Toronto players because they truly believed they outplayed the Eastern Conference's best team.

The Leafs outshot the Sabres and John Pohl had Buffalo goalie Martin Biron down and out late in the game, but his shot at a tying goal hit the side of the net.

In three games against the Sabres this season, Toronto is 1-2 but has had a chance to win each one.

"I think we're right there," said Raycroft. "They're the best team in the East anyways, if not the league. We hung in with them for the third time.

"We've just got to keep working, keep our heads up and keep going at this. It's a long year."

Maurice felt the same.

While wishing his team hadn't let the game slip away, he was happy with the overall effort.

"We're not going to beat the team in the head because we lost a game to Buffalo and had a chance to tie it at the end," he said.

And as Raycroft noted, it's a long season.

The Maple Leafs can't control what other teams do or what their own fans think. All they can do is prepare for the next challenge.

"Resilience," said Maurice. "You've got to pick yourself back up and go."


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