The Toronto Maple Leafs decided against keeping veteran goaltender Ed Belfour at the end of last season, instead acquiring the much younger Andrew Raycroft. So far, the move appears to have been the right one for the Leafs.
The Maple Leafs try for their sixth straight win over the Florida Panthers, Belfour's new club, when the teams meet Monday at the Air Canada Centre.
The 41-year-old Belfour spent the previous three seasons with Toronto, going 93-61-4 along with 11 ties while posting a 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He went 22-22-4 last season and recorded a 3.29 ERA, his highest since 1996-97 when he was with San Jose.
The Maple Leafs (1-1-1), who had their string of six straight playoff appearances snapped last season, chose not to pick up Belfour's option, making him a free agent.
The five-time All-Star, who had surgery in April to repair a herniated disc, signed a one-year deal with Florida (1-1-0) to back up newly acquired Alex Auld. Belfour didn't fare well in his first start of the season Saturday and lost 6-0 to Atlanta, giving up four goals on nine shots before being pulled in the second period in favor of Auld.
"I have no excuses. I just have to play better," said Belfour, whose team beat Boston 8-3 in its season opener Friday with Auld in goal. "I thought I had a good warmup, but obviously that didn't carry over to the game."
It remains to be seen whether Belfour will get the chance Monday to face his former team, which has already benefited from the strong play of its new No. 1 goalie.
Raycroft, obtained from the Bruins in the offseason, has a 1.63 GAA and .951 save percentage in three starts. The 26-year-old goalie has already faced 102 shots and stopped 97 of them.
Raycroft couldn't shut down Montreal in a shootout Saturday, giving up two goals, and the Leafs lost 3-2. Darcy Tucker and Matt Stajan scored in the defeat for Toronto, which beat Ottawa 6-0 on Thursday.
"It's disappointing," Stajan said. "We threw a lot of pucks at the net but their goalie (David Aebischer) played well as did Rayzor (Raycroft). The game was there for us to take but unfortunately we didn't."
Toronto took all four meetings with Florida last season, converting 34.5 percent (10-of-29) of its power-play opportunities, and has won five consecutive matchups overall. The Leafs have lost only nine of 36 all-time meetings between the teams.
Raycroft has a 2.22 GAA in eight starts against the Panthers, going 2-4 along with two ties. He had the worst of those outings in his last start against them, allowing five goals in a 6-4 loss Dec. 28.
Raycroft will face a Florida team that went 4-for-6 on the power play in its season opener, but was shut down on all four opportunities Saturday. The Leafs' penalty-killing unit has given up only two power-play goals in 17 chances this season.
Toronto may be without defenseman Andy Wozniewski, who left Saturday's loss after hurting his shoulder on his first shift. Leafs coach Paul Maurice called it a "significant injury."