For Vesa Toskala, it’s finally baseball season.
Tuesday, the Leafs goalie will go where he hasn’t gone for 24 games. He will grab a Leafs baseball cap and head to end of the bench when the Maple Leafs entertain the Buffalo Sabres, at Air Canada Centre.
For Raycroft, it has been a frightfully disappointing season. He brings into the contest a record of 2-8 with 4.07 goals against average and a .868 save percentage.
The Sabres have a razo
r-thin possibility of post-season play. They trail Boston by five points with two games to go after Tuesday.
The Leafs, meanwhile, will divide their goaltenders for their last four games which many wise guys will say has been going on all year. Toskala will end up with 67 games, his career high but only by 29 contests.
“We decided after Boston (where the Leafs were eliminated) to split the remaining four games,” explained Leafs coach Paul Maurice.
That means Raycroft will get a chance to apply some minor brushstrokes to the toughest of his three years in the NHL. He was coming off a 72-game, 37 win season but management believed fatigue had set in at the end of last season. The Leafs began the season with coach Paul Maurice envisioning a tandem between Raycroft and Vesa Toskala. As a nod to his tenure, Raycroft was given the season-opening start against Ottawa but he never found his game, even when Toskala’s groin injury presented him with an opportunity to re-establish himself in late December-early January.
Raycroft said that after such a long layoff, he will be flying on instruments.
“I don’t now what it’s going to be like,” he said. “I’m kind of going in the dark.”
For Raycroft and the Leafs, the early going will be key. It’s like they are breaking in a rookie again.
“I’m hoping he can just rely on his fundamentals and the basics,” said Maurice. “He hasn’t played in an awful long time but this isn’t his first year in the league. We just want to keep his game real simple and not try to do too much with the puck. We just want him to stop as many pucks as he can.”
“I’m going to go out and hopefully catch a break or two and make some saves,” Raycroft said. “I can’t remember the lat time I sat out for four or five games, excluding injuries, let alone 35 or 45 or whatever it is.”
After Tuesday’s game the Maple Leafs close out their home season with a game against Ottawa on Thursday and travel to Montreal for the finale, Saturday.