Andrew Raycroft may have struggled with the pressure of playing in Toronto early this season. His play like that of the rest of his team, has picked up considerably of late.
Raycroft and the Maple Leafs seek a season-high fifth straight victory Tuesday when they face the St. Louis Blues for the first time in more than three years.
Raycroft, acquired from Boston on June 24 for goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask, allowed four goals or more in half of his first 10 starts with Toronto (26-21-6) and had an unimpressive 3.12 goals-against average in October. His early season performance more resembled the netminder that had a 3.71 GAA in 30 games with the Bruins last season than the one that won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 2003-04.
A week off during the All-Star break appears to have been beneficial for Raycroft, who is 4-0 with a 1.25 GAA since then. He made 30 saves in regulation and overtime before denying the final four shootout attempts he faced in a 3-2 victory at Ottawa on Saturday.
"We're not winning solely because of Andrew but we couldn't win without him," Toronto coach Paul Maurice told the team's official Web site.
Captain Mats Sundin scored once in regulation and again in the shootout as the Leafs matched their four-game win streak from Nov. 4-11.
Making Toronto's recent play even more impressive is the caliber of forwards currently missing from their lineup. Darcy Tucker, among the league leaders with 13 power-play goals, hasn't played since Jan. 1 due to a left foot injury. Kyle Wellwood, sixth on the team with 31 points, has missed six weeks following hernia surgery and Michael Peca has been sidelined since Dec. 22 with a broken right leg.
"We've just had the attitude that we have no choice and we can't dwell on the guys who are not in the lineup," Jeff O'Neill said. "Every line is different with the skill level, but every line is on the same page as far as the plan goes. We have a group confidence now. We know what is going to happen out there."
This will the Leafs' first meeting with the Blues since a 3-2 overtime loss on Dec. 9, 2003. Toronto hasn't played at St. Louis since Nov. 9, 2002.
Manny Legace turned away 22 shots as St. Louis (21-24-8) halted a three-game skid Saturday with a 2-0 victory over visiting Dallas. Blues coach Andy Murray started his top goalie after Legace allowed four goals in each of his last two games.
"I put Manny back in tonight because I think he felt like he had a subpar performance in Detroit," Murray said. "It's a real testament to him, that he stepped up and got it done."
Although they remain a longshot for the playoffs, the Blues already have matched their win total from last season.
Keith Tkachuk's third-period goal came on the power play, a rarity of late for St. Louis. The Blues has scored only once in their last 22 man-advantage opportunities entering Saturday.
"For us to get a power-play goal when we struggled as we did in Detroit, is great," Murray said. "It was a typical Keith Tkachuk goal scored about two feet from the net."
The Blues are 5-0-1 in their last six meetings with the Maple Leafs.