This could be the chance Andrew Raycroft has been waiting his whole career for. With the January 13 trade of John Grahame to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the door to the NHL has been swung open for Andrew, and what he must do now is step through the threshold and become a #1 NHL goaltender.
However, things won’t be easy for the 22 year old Belleville, Ontario native: the Bruins have gone a league worst 1-6-0 in the month of January (as of Jan. 17). Over that seven-game span they have allowed 28 goals, including a 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers in Raycroft’s first NHL game of the season. History doesn’t seem to be on Andrew’s side either; Andrew and John Grahame hold the unfavourable distinction of being the only Bruins’ draft picks since Bill Ranford (who was drafted in 1985) to start in a NHL game for Boston. Possibly because of the Bruins’ lack of success drafting goaltenders, Andrew, who was drafted 135th overall in 1998, has never really been heralded as the future franchise goalie. This is despite being the first goaltender since Glenn Hall (1951) to win both the Ontario Hockey League’s MVP and Goaltender of the Year awards.
This is a big opportunity for Andrew, and he knows it, saying he’s “ready for a new challenge,” and he wants to “stay here and be here all year.” To stay in Boston he will have to win games, which is something he’s been doing a lot of lately in Providence, going 6-1-0 in his last 7 starts. When the club is not winning hockey games, Boston General Manager, Mike O’Connell has already shown he has a lack of patience with his goaltenders by trading away John Grahame. Raycroft will find himself back in Providence quickly if he plays as poorly as Grahame did in recent weeks.
For now, look to Raycroft and goaltender Steve Shields to share time in the Boston net. Should one of them emerge as the hotter goaltender, you can expect that goalie to be the one starting the key games as the Bruins make their pitch towards the playoffs. The remaining 38 games for Boston are crucial for Andrew. If he can emerge as the starting goaltender the Bruins are looking for, he could keep that job for years to come. Should both goalies falter down the stretch, O’Connell could be forced to bring in a veteran goalie; Jeff Hackett of Montreal and Arturs Irbe of Carolina are likely available. This would subsequently be cause for a demotion to Providence for Raycroft, which could make his road to the NHL in the future a lot rockier, with Bruin prospect goaltenders Hannu Toivonen, and Matti Kaltiainen each playing well for HPK (Finnish elite league), and Boston College (Hockey East) respectively.