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Michael Traikos, National Post
Published: Monday, January 15, 2007
10-12-3 record at the ACC: Fans boo Raycroft in embarrassing loss to Canucks


TORONTO - Playing in front of your fans is often referred to as home-ice advantage. But for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have already lost as many home games as they did in the entire 2005-06 season, the opposite is true.

Moments after goaltender Andrew Raycroft was booed in an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, the Leafs could not leave Toronto fast enough. For the next two weeks, they will happily avoid what has become a home-ice disadvantage.

"I don't think it's a bad thing that we're going on the road," said third-line centre Matt Stajan. "Sometimes we may try to do too much at home."

The Leafs are 10-12-3 at the Air Canada Centre. They were 26-12-3 in 2005-06.

Toronto outshot Vancouver 36-21 on Saturday, but they went 0-for-8 on the power play. Only winger Bates Battaglia managed to put the puck past goaltender Roberto Luongo. At the other end of the rink, Raycroft seemed to allow every other shot he faced.

The Canucks scored two goals on their first four shots and capitalized on five of their 10 power-play attempts. When a Sami Salo slapshot hit Raycroft's glove and trickled in for Vancouver's fifth goal, the Air Canada Centre crowd started to jeer the goaltender.

"It's heartbreaking for a guy who plays his heart out and had, in my opinion, a pretty [expletive] solid first half of the season," Leafs captain Mats Sundin said.

"Five power-play goals," Stajan added. "How do you blame a goaltender for that? If you're going to boo someone, boo the refs."

Raycroft, who has a worse record (9-11) and goals-against average (3.16) at home then he does on the road (9-4, 2.93), was not surprised by the negative response.

"Everyone up there was from Vancouver at the end, anyway," he said of Saturday night's crowd, which had started out with a season-high attendance of 19,608. "All the die-hard Leafs fans went home and all the other ones who paid 500 bucks had stayed to the end to get their money's worth ... that's just the way it is.

"They paid pretty good money to come watch us play and we didn't perform, so they can boo all they want."

With four straight home losses, Raycroft and the Leafs have given fans little reason to cheer for them lately. They last won on Dec. 26 at Air Canada Centre, and joined the Philadelphia Flyers (3-13-4) as the only teams in the Eastern Conference to perform below .500 in their own building.

"Of course it's frustrating to lose like that on home ice. It's embarrassing," Sundin said.

"You're not going to make the playoffs playing that way at home. So we have to find a way to be better at home."

The injury-plagued Leafs have been only slightly better on the road, with a 10-8-3 record.

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