|Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco has helped his team reach its first Western Conference Finals in eight seasons. Marty Turco highlight video|
Turco, who outplayed former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere of Anaheim in the first round before eliminating Vezina Trophy nominee Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks in the conference semifinals, has helped lead Dallas to its first Western Conference Final appearance in eight seasons.
Next up is Presidents’ Trophy winner Detroit and two-time NHL All-Star Chris Osgood, who finished with a League-low 2.09 goals-against average in the regular season.
Prior to this playoff year, Turco had never reached a conference final despite the fact he sported a respectable 2.21 GAA in 29 career playoff games. His team, however, averaged just 2.44 goals per game over that 29-game span, leaving the Ontario native little margin for error. The Stars dropped a seven-game series to the Vancouver Canucks last spring in the opening round even though Turco had a 1.30 GAA, a .952 save percentage and three shutouts.
“We didn’t give (Marty) enough support against Vancouver (last season) to find him those goals to see how far that would have taken us,’’ Morrow said. “He’s had us on his back for two rounds here and it’s been real fun to watch. He’s been spectacular in making the hard saves look easy for us for a long time.’’
Turco was 32-21-6 with a 2.31 GAA and .909 save percentage in the regular season and is now in the midst of his finest playoff run in five seasons as starter. He is 8-4 with a 1.73 GAA and .929 save percentage after two rounds. He notched a 4-0 shutout on 23 saves in Game 1 against Anaheim and made a career-high 61 stops in a 2-1 quadruple-overtime thriller in the decisive Game 6 against San Jose. You kind of get the feeling the Stars are determined to provide Turco that offensive support this postseason as the team has averaged almost three goals a game.
Enter the Wings, a team that has traditionally tormented Turco throughout his seven-season career, but has yet to face him in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It’s all about your next save, your next shift, the next game,’’ Turco said. “In preparing to play now against anybody anywhere, day or night, it doesn’t matter since it’s all about preparation. I’ve always known in the back of my mind the lack of success I’ve had against (Detroit) but it hasn’t happened in the playoffs, and that would be the ultimate test to see where you stand. So I’m looking forward to it.’’
Turco is 2-10-5 lifetime against the Wings, including a miserable 0-7-2 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit where the first two games of this showdown will take place. He also has an unsightly 3.38 GAA and .882 save percentage against Detroit. Turco did make 28 saves in a 1-0 victory over the Wings at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Feb. 17 to notch his team’s only triumph over Detroit in four meetings in 2007-08.
“Detroit’s willingness to get to the net, is important, especially this time of year,’’ Turco said. “So our ability to battle in front and for me to see pucks, find them and anticipate quite often will be a factor. We don’t expect anybody from Detroit to cool down and we’re looking forward to that type challenge.’’
Osgood, who is 27-10-3 lifetime against the Stars, doesn’t feel Turco’s troubled past against the Wings will make much difference once the series begins.
“What’s in the past is in the past,’’ Osgood said. “It’s right now that matters.’’
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock agrees.
“I think (Turco) is really good, calm and professional,’’ Babcock said. “He’s been through it all. You want to talk about fighting through adversity, this guy’s been through it and their team has as well.’’
In addition to being a good puck stopper, Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg feels Turco handles the disk as well as any goalie in the League.
“We know he likes to play the puck, so we just have to keep the puck away from him,’’ Zetterberg said. “ He’s like another defenseman out there, so when you’re dumping the puck, you want to keep it away from him. If we do that, we’ll be OK. At the same time, when we’re taking shots, we need to generate screens to be able to tip in pucks and make it a little more difficult for him to see the puck and make plays.’’
Stars center Mike Modano knows Turco is geared up for the challenge.
“Everybody’s talked about his record in Detroit, but this is a new series,’’ Modano told stars.com. “It’s a time to reestablish yourself and quiet those critics. I’m sure Marty’s using this as a great opportunity to change people’s opinions about his situation against Detroit.’’
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.