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Five Questions: Turco talks all things goaltending

by Dan Rosen's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco:

TORONTO -- Marty Turco stopped to chat and was told the interview would be strictly about goaltending, so he took a deep breath and responded.

"We could be here all day," Turco said.

All day wasn't possible. It might have happened if it was.

Turco talked Sunday with prior to participating in the Legends Game at Air Canada Center, an annual staple of Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend. As usual, he delivered the goods over nearly 15 minutes that were less interview and more conversation with the former Dallas Stars goalie who is now working in the club's business development department.

Turco touched on the Stars' goalie tandem of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, his favorite goalies to watch, and went inside goaltending on some positional secrets.

Here are Five Questions with … Marty Turco:

What do you make of the goaltending situation in Dallas; can it work, and are Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen good enough to get the Stars not only into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but deep into the playoffs?

"It's a unique situation that is high-priced, so it's a very interesting saga, but I think if any time in history that it could work is now. The Stars have been snakebitten in their backup position with not enough rest for Kari, no wins, but you got two guys who are the same age, from the same country, making some pretty good dollars, and it's like, 'We don't care, go get your butt in there and go win.'

"It's going well, but I also think internally it's going well. Every week you have to revisit that subject because it's the reason why you asked the question. Can we win with these guys? Of course. Chicago last year needed a guy in the first round, Scott [Darling] came in for Corey [Crawford], Corey closed the door in the end. The parity is the greatest ever and to not have confidence every night going in hurts. If you have a two-headed monster, so be it.

"It's such an impulse League now, what have you done for me lately. We've seen a chink in the armor. If Kari wasn't playing well, he had no support system and then you can see guys looking around, curious. I think the situation for the Stars now is, 'OK, at least one of the two is going to play great and we're going to see that guy tonight.' It's more out of sight, out of mind as valuable as the position is. These guys are good and it seems like it can be a unique revolving door that should be successful with these guys."

Now that you're retired for a while and you watch the game, which goalies do you enjoy watching play?

"Pekka Rinne to me is a blast. High energy. To be that tall and athletic, amazing. He plays the puck and he doesn't get enough credit for that. That, coming from me, is important, it was an important facet of my game and something I always watch for.

"Nobody is better in the world now than Carey Price. Man, it just looks like it's effortless for him, so easy. When you don't think he ever moves quick, all of a sudden, boom, he just flies across. But even when he's flying, it doesn't look like he's flying. He's a big guy too. I don't think people appreciate how big he is. He has a great head on his shoulders too. He's kind of how you'd want to build 'em.

"Also, Martin Jones, how calm he is. I just love seeing guys who are so calm back there. He's also big. They're all big now. I put my skates on and I'm like, 'Man, 6-foot, it just doesn't cut it anymore.' At least I stood up. It's all just pure jealousy at this point with the equipment, the way they move, and how they sit back in the crease. Mike Smith says to me, 'Dude, you should have been sitting back in your crease the whole time.' I'm like, 'I know, wasting all this energy all the time.'"

But as you said, puck handling was an important aspect of your game, and you were quite good at it. How did you become good at it, hone that particular craft, because a lot of guys don't have the confidence to do that now.

"No, they don't. I think I put a lot of emphasis on my stick and my glove to move it than I think some guys might. I had a smaller upper piece of equipment that allowed me more arm movement. Nothing is more important, though, than having coaches believe in what you're doing and to see it as an asset as opposed to a detriment. I've been scored on from the blue line when I'm in the corner like the rest of them have, but for them to never retract deep enough and to always say, 'Yeah, man, this is so beneficial for us,' that's big.

"Red [Berenson] in college [University of Michigan] was always for it because we had good players and we were just always good, so I could afford mistakes and such, but when I got to Dallas, Eddie [Belfour] kind of paved the way for me a little bit. He would go into the corners, go side to side, move it up. But I flipped my glove hand over and I had the ability to have a backhand, to change the angle from where I'm passing, not be so deliberate. I also had very underrated skating ability, I think. My dad always said if you're not a good skater you won't be a good goalie. Every time when I was playing on the pond or in the backyard I always played out, and I think that had a lot to do with it. I would have been better at it when I was younger, but I just wasn't strong enough. I didn't have a light stick or a custom glove. That might have made me try a little harder too."

Do goalies work on puck handling enough? Are they good enough at handling the puck these days? Or is not as important anymore in the technical aspect of a goalie because of the trapezoid?

"There is so much to work on, the muscle memory, the movement, the tracking of the puck. I wish I had all of that too, but I was never sitting still in practice. I was always grabbing pucks out of the net, ringing them off the post, trying to hit targets, working on that backhand. The little chip plays, to me, were the most important ones to either speed up the breakout or give my defensemen one extra second to turn up. I still say they pay us to win games, not to stop the puck, even though that's the major component of goaltending. I always had that philosophy that if this helps us win, moving the puck, why wouldn't I do it?

"I want goalies now to play it better, set it up better, to care about it rather than leave it up against the boards and a guy has to come in there, pick it up, and they get blasted. But I think the forecheck is hard with the way these guys skate and going all four lines, so they have more heat on them. The one thing I think they lack the most is taking the mental picture before they turn around and get the puck. I didn't have my head up when I was moving the puck, I had my head up before I was moving it, sometimes just before. I think the snapshot in your mind, having that idea of where it's going to go, having your options set, is big. We worked on that stuff daily and the coaches have to be involved and the players have to believe in what you're doing. My vocal assertiveness and some leadership played a part in our success. They trusted me because we'd do it in practice."

Now a big topic of conversation is that scoring is down and some immediately deflect to the solution of, hey, let's make the nets bigger. How, as a goalie, do you feel about that?

"It's going to skew the game forever. Essentially who cares if you rewrite record books, but I do think the goal scoring will be tainted. Things change and things evolve too. There are things that they can do to the equipment. I remember talking to the League, the powers that be, about how the equipment works and I still don't think they realize fully how all of this stuff works and what is making saves, why guys are moving so good. You can easily slow these guys down and it's not necessarily the size of the equipment. Everything can be shaved down a bit, upper pads too, but there I'll also bet you there is a close correlation between blocked shots and saves. It's also more than just the congestiveness. So now you have goalies that just block because they can't see. But I wouldn't mind seeing scoring open up a bit more because every time scoring goes up the premium on good goalies goes up, which I'm all for. Open it up more. Shot blocking is annoying."


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