GAME: Vancouver Canucks (49-26-7) vs. Dallas Stars (50-25-7).
Marty Turco hasn't left much of a mark in his postseason career. Roberto Luongo
finally has the opportunity to leave his.
The goaltending duel between Turco and Luongo will highlight what figures to be a very tight series as the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks open their Western Conference quarterfinal series Wednesday night at GM Place.
There is no bigger factor in the playoffs than goaltending, and in no first-round series will that be more on display than this matchup between Turco and Luongo, who is making his postseason debut in his seventh season.
Turco has been one of the NHL's best goaltenders the last four seasons but success in the playoffs has been harder to come by.
Since leading Dallas (50-25-7) to a first-round win over Edmonton in 2002-03, Turco has lost 12 of 16 playoff games with the Stars losing in the opening round to Colorado each of the past two seasons. He has allowed four goals or more in four of his last six playoff starts and is 8-14 with a 2.54 goals-against average in 22 postseason games.
"Marty took a lot of criticism last year, probably unfairly," Stars defenseman Philippe Boucher said on the team's official Web site. "We win as a team, lose as a team. Marty's been very solid this season. We have tons of confidence in him. We've had great seasons and not-so-good results in the playoffs. So the pressure isn't just on Marty. It's on all of us."
Luongo, meanwhile, will be getting his first taste of the playoffs despite being one of the league's best goaltenders for most of his seven-year career. After toiling for five seasons in Florida, Luongo flourished during his first season with Vancouver (49-26-7), tying for the second-most wins in NHL history with 47 while posting a 2.29 GAA and five shutouts.
"It's exciting, I can't wait to get it started," Luongo said. "I've been waiting a long time for this and it's finally here so I'm really looking forward to Wednesday."
Luongo started slowly with his new team but picked up his play dramatically in 2007, leading the Canucks to a 32-8-8 mark after Christmas and the Northwest Division title. No player had a bigger role in helping Vancouver set franchise records for wins and points (105).
"Since Christmas, we obviously have been one of the best teams in the NHL," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "One of the reasons I think we have been one of the best teams is we've played hard at both ends of the rink. That's what we're going to have to do starting Wednesday."
Dallas also finished the season strong, losing in regulation in just two of its last 16 games. The Stars reached 100 points for the third time in four seasons, finishing sixth in the West.
Because both Dallas and Vancouver had such excellent goaltending during the regular season, the teams were successful despite being the two lowest-scoring teams in the conference playoffs. New Jersey (216) is the only playoff team that scored fewer goals than the Stars (226) and Canucks (222).
All four regular-season meetings between these teams were decided by 2-1 scores, with each club winning twice at home. Dallas won once in overtime and one of the Canucks' victories came in a shootout.
Although offensive depth is an issue for both teams, the Stars and Canucks both have some very capable forwards.
Dallas' surprising scoring leader was center Mike Ribeiro (59 points), while next on the list were defensemen Sergei Zubov (54) and Boucher (51). Mike Modano missed 23 games with hip and groin injuries but still managed 43 points in 59 games. He has 52 goals and 79 assists in 149 career playoff contests.
After leading the Canucks in scoring for seven consecutive seasons, captain Markus Naslund slumped to 60 points in 2006-07. That decrease, though, was offset by twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin
, who combined for 165 points and emerged as two of the league's top forwards.
Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa
, who missed Sunday's regular-season finale at Phoenix with a foot injury will be back for this game.
The only previous playoff meeting between these teams took place in the 1994 Western Conference semifinals, a series the Canucks won in five games. Vancouver's Trevor Linden and Modano are the only players on those teams playing in this series. LEADERS
INJURIES Ryan Kesler
|Goals: ||D. Sedin ||36 |
|Assists: ||H. Sedin ||71 |
| Points: ||D. Sedin ||84 |
|Plus/Minus: ||S. Salo ||+21 |
| PIMs: ||K. Bieksa ||134 || || |
|Goals: ||J. Lehtinen ||26 |
|Assists: ||L. Nagy ||43 |
| Points: ||M. Ribeiro ||59 |
|Plus/Minus: ||M. Modano ||+9 |
| PIMs: ||M. Barnaby ||127 |
(hip) and Josh Green (knee) are out for Vancouver.
Krys Barch (upper body), Eric Lindros (groin), Matthew Barnaby (concussion) are day-to-day for Dallas. Patrik Stefan (hip) is out.