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Turco puts accent on excellence in playoffs

Wednesday, 04.30.2008 / 9:30 AM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist


Marty Turco could lead the Stars into the third round for the first time since becoming the starting goalie in 2002-03. Turco highlights
Before last season, there were a lot of questions about why Dallas goaltender Marty Turco struggled in the playoffs. He continues to answer them with his performance.

Turco was brilliant in the Stars’ first-round loss to Vancouver last year, posting three shutouts and allowing just 11 goals while posting a .952 save percentage for a team that couldn’t score.

He’s carried that over to this year, and with the Stars generating more offense, he’s put up seven wins in nine games, helping the Stars eliminate the defending champion Anaheim Ducks and get the jump on the Sharks with three wins in San Jose, including Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime win.

Turco has never led the Stars past the second round of the playoff since taking over as their No. 1 goaltender in 2002-03. He could end that drought as early as tonight.
    
Five up — Five players who stepped it up in the second round of the playoffs:

Johan Franzen -- The “Mule” (his nickname in Detroit’s dressing room) is pulling the wagon big-time. Franzen had two goals and an assist in Game 1 against Colorado, added the first hat trick of the playoffs in Game 2 and scored again in Game 3. He’s had 23 goals since the beginning of March, more than anyone in the League.

Martin Biron -- Biron has been the Flyers’ best player in the second round against Montreal, beating the Canadiens twice after a heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 1. The Flyers were out-shot badly in Games 2 and 3, but Biron won them both to put the underdog Flyers ahead in the series.

R.J. Umberger -- After getting just 13 goals in the regular season and one in Philadelphia’s opening-round win against Washington, Umberger has been the hot stick for the Flyers against Montreal. He had the first goal in Games 1 and 2, added an insurance goal in Philadelphia’s 4-2 win in the second game, and had the winner in Game 3.

Saku Koivu -- Montreal’s captain has been on fire since returning from a broken foot that forced him to miss the Canadiens’ first five playoff games. He has two goals and five assists since his return — including an assist on the game-tying goal that forced overtime in Game 1 against Philadelphia and a spectacular wraparound goal in Game 2.

Marc-Andre Fleury -- It’s easy to lose sight of Fleury on a team with offensive stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but Fleury is the only unbeaten starting goaltender in the playoffs. He was brilliant while making 36 saves in a 5-3 win Tuesday in a game in which his team was outshot 39-17.

Five down -- Five players who struggled in the second round:
   
Carey Price -- Montreal’s rookie goaltender has struggled mightily in the second round against Philadelphia, capped by a Game 3 outing in which he allowed three goals on 12 shots before being lifted, then benched for Game 4. The good thing for the Canadiens is that Price has shown the ability to rebound from bad performances with terrific ones.

Brian Campbell -- The All-Star defenseman was the missing link for the San Jose Sharks, who went on a roll after his arrival at the trade deadline. In the playoffs, he’s just been missing — he’s had five assists in 11 games and hasn’t been anywhere near as good as he was down the stretch.
   
Nabokov
Evgeni Nabokov -- The Vezina Trophy finalist was outplayed by Dallas’ Turco in San Jose, where the Sharks dropped the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series. He allowed seven goals on just 42 shots, a save percentage of .833. He was better on Tuesday, but still lost 2-1 in overtime.

Jose Theodore -- Colorado’s MVP in its first-round win against Minnesota has been MIA in the second round against Detroit. He was yanked in the second period in each of the first three games after allowing four goals -- though, to be fair, he played the first game despite battling a case of the flu -- and allowed four more in a 4-3 loss on Tuesday. The Avs can’t afford to have anything less than Theodore’s “A” game if they hope to really and beat the Wings.

Brendan Shanahan --Shanahan had a goal in the New York Rangers’ first playoff game against New Jersey and hasn’t scored since. He’s scoreless and minus-3 in the first three games of the Rangers’ series against Pittsburgh.

Injuries, news and notes -- The saddest note of the week was the death of Columbus Blue Jackets owner John McConnell, who passed away last Friday at age 84. McConnell led the group of investors that brought the Blue Jackets to the city in 2000. He called the team his gift to the city.

Out -- Colorado has been decimated by injuries. Center Peter Forsberg (groin) returned Tuesday after missing the first two games against Detroit, forward Wojtek Wolski (upper-body injury) is likely done for the series after being injured in Game 1, and forward Ryan Smyth (foot) didn’t play Tuesday night. Smyth blocked a shot in Saturday’s Game 2 and was limping after the game. The Avs did get defenseman Scott Hannan (lower-body injury) back for Game 3, but lost center Paul Stastny in the first period with a knee injury.  … Montreal defenseman Patrice Brisebois hasn’t played the last two games against Philadelphia due to a leg injury. … Rangers center Blair Betts took a puck in the face in the second period against Pittsburgh on Tuesday and didn’t return.

Zubov
Returning -- Dallas’ postseason hopes got a big boost when All-Star defenseman Sergei Zubov returned for Game 2 against San Jose. He hadn’t played since January and had undergone an operation on his foot and surgery to repair a sports hernia. … Philadelphia expects to get forward Mike Knuble back Wednesday for Game 4 against Montreal. He’s been out since Game 5 of the opening round against Washington with a partially torn left hamstring. … Rangers forward Colton Orr returned for Game 1 against Pittsburgh after missing 10 games with a broken toe, but did not dress in Games 2 or 3.

Still out -- San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren has missed five games with a combination of a sore groin and a lower-body injury. There’s no word on when he might return. … Pittsburgh forward Gary Roberts hasn’t played since April 11 due to a groin injury. He’s almost ready to return, but the Pens have played so well that finding a place for him may be difficult. … Detroit forward Kirk Maltby, who hasn’t played in the playoffs due to a hamstring problem, said he’s ready to go -- but with the Wings playing well, finding a spot for him might not be easy.

Non-playoff teams -- Tampa Bay defenseman Paul Ranger had surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. He’s expected to need 3-to-4 months to recover fully. … Buffalo center Paul Gaustad had successful surgery to repair a sports hernia and is expected to be ready for training camp.

The week ahead — The second round of the playoffs continues; it’s possible for this round to run through next Wednesday, though three of the four series could also be sweeps.

Scheduling

The Flyers and Canadiens get two days off, after game 4, before resuming their playoff series Saturday night in Montreal.
Philadelphia vs. Montreal -- Following Game 4 tonight, the teams get two days off before the series resumes Saturday night in Montreal. If necessary, Game 6 is Sunday night in Philadelphia.

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh -- Game 4 is Thursday in New York, with the Rangers trying to avoid a sweep. If they win, the teams then get two days off before Game 5 Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, followed (if necessary) by a sixth game Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Colorado vs. Detroit -- Game 4 is Thursday night in Denver, with Colorado trying to avoid being swept; Game 5, if necessary, would be Saturday afternoon in Detroit.

Dallas vs. San Jose --Dallas will try to sweep with a win at home Wednesday night. If the Sharks win, they’ll host Game 5 on Friday night.


Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares