He may seem level-headed and calm in goal. He may speak like someone auditioning for the job of an NHL analyst with his on-the-mark insights into the game. But Marty Turco
admits that he often operates to the beat of a different drummer, like most goaltenders.
"It goes without saying that goalies need to be a little quirky to even do what we do and actually to enjoy it," Turco said. "And if any one of these guys in the NHL say they don't like what they're doing, they're crazy, because I think that deep down they do. I think, behind those masks, we're all having the time of our lives."
Turco is having the time of his life lately, as he outplayed his Anaheim Ducks
counterpart, Jean-Sebastien Giguere
, and helped Dallas eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions for his first playoff series victory since 2003.
Turco is one of those feel-good stories. He was a slick-skating, too-small forward who jumped into goal at age 10. He was a Junior B player hoping for a scholarship to a small school where he could work on his teaching degree when the University of Michigan took a chance on him.
His story gets a little bigger after winning national championships at Michigan in 1996 and '98 and being named Frozen Four MVP in '98. He's posted 37 or more wins in each of the last four NHL seasons. Yet he's been judged more for the fact that he failed to get the Stars out of the first round of the playoffs in each of the last three years, yielding a whopping 36 goals in 10 games in 2004 and 2006.
Well, those demons have been exorcized this year, as Turco yielded only 12 goals in six games in the Stars' first-round series victory against the Ducks.
"Yeah, I've gone through a lot ... heard from a lot of critics," Turco admitted. "Hey, I'm the same feisty little goalie who has exceeded any expectations I might have had as a hockey player. Not bad for someone who never had any real instruction in goaltending until I went to the University of Michigan and worked with (former St. Louis Blues
goaltender) Mike Liut.
"Bottom line: I'm out here to win hockey games. That's all I care about. Anything I see, I want to stop."
The wanna-be teacher will face the San Jose Sharks
in Round 2, and the goaltending professor might have found a way to inspire and instruct youngsters in the Dallas dressing room with his wit, wisdom and leadership skills.
Before Turco got his degree in physical education at Michigan, the first lesson he learned was in Hockey 101 from his father, who was a steel worker in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, after working for years in his father's grocery store. Alma, Marty's mother, works at Sears.
"It's not what Dad told me to do, but his passion for the game," Turco said. "He would finish his shift at work and be right out there in the backyard, shoveling the snow off the rink and freezing the snow bank in the driveway to act like boards on a big rink. He let me break my own fall and then stand back up and be accountable for my life ahead, whether it was in hockey or whatever."
Is it finally Turco's time? The odds say it is.
"Bottom line: I'm out here to win hockey games. That's all I care about. Anything I see, I want to stop." -- Marty Turco
"The expectations are high for us," Turco said. "That's fine with me. The thing I've learned over the last three years is that you only have so many cracks at it."
And tossing three shutouts in last year's playoffs while still losing in seven games to Vancouver and Roberto Luongo
helped Turco focus this time around. But it wasn't an easy start to this season. He was just 7-5-3 and was pulled twice in his first 17 starts. After the All-Star break, he came back focused and refreshed, and won 10 of his next 12 starts.
"It was like Marty wanted everyone to take his lead," Stars coach Dave Tippett
said. "All the maturity and leadership came out and the chemistry on this team seemed to mix. Everyone seemed to follow, taking responsibility for each other's role on the team."
Clearly, Turco's role is to be the stopper, the way Giguere was for Anaheim last season when they won the Stanley Cup. Why would this be Turco's time?
"When Marty plays like he did against the Ducks," veteran center Mike Modano
said, "I like our chances."