Mailbag answers: Part I

MK: Ah, I love the crystal ball question. First off, don’t ever say Rask and Raycroft in the same sentence. Many goaltending experts saw the holes in Raycroft’s game long before he fell off the cliff. And his inability to get playing time during the lockout really sidetracked him.

Do I expect Rask to win the Vezina? No. But I expect him to duplicate last season’s performance over the course of the season. I also expect him to get more playing time regardless if Thomas is here or not, and that could open the door for a few more poor games or maybe a few spectacular performances that put him in the Vezina discussion. The Bruins obviously want to see how Rask responds now that he’s a known quantity, and that’s why they haven’t jumped at just any deal to get Thomas’ $5 million off the books. We shall see if Rask can live up to the hype this fall.

Keith writes:

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of young goaltenders suffer from “Andrew Raycroft syndrome” — namely tanking after a successful rookie season. While I would imagine that the specific reasons vary from case to case, I was wondering if you had any general thoughts on the causes of this syndrome and which of next year’s crop of sophomore puck stoppers are most likely to come down with a case of the “Raycrofts.”

MK: I thought this was going to be another Raycroft-Rask comparison question, but I guess you’re looking at the league in general. When it comes to Rask and Howard in Detroit – really the only two netminders that could fit this category – I don’t see either being anything less than a standout No. 1 for years to come. Like Rask, Howard was developed in the Red Wings organization for a few years until he was ready and he did a great job when finally given a chance. Playing in a star-studded lineup with some of the best defensive players in the league in front of him, Howard should be ensconced in Detroit’s crease.

The reasons for Raycroft’s decline were as much about the lockout and his mental makeup as they were about his abilities. Rask is in a different class than Raycroft, Blaine Lacher, Hannu Toivonen or any of the Bruins goaltenders of the past that probably still give you nightmares. So you can breathe a sigh of relief now.

Read Part II.

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