After growing up next door to Hockeytown in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Turco crossed the border to play for the maize and blue at the University of Michigan. He broke the NCAA record for most career wins (127-28-7 lifetime) during his time in Ann Arbor while leading the Wolverines to national championships in 1996 and 1998.
While playing for the Michigan K-Wings in 1999, he was named rookie of the year in the International Hockey League, and then broke the league record for consecutive shutout minutes (282:04) in 2000.
Turco then moved to Dallas, where he became a three-time NHL All-Star. Of all current NHL goalies, only Martin Brodeur has more consecutive 30-win seasons.
Turco holds a lifetime record of 207-103-26, with an impressive .913 save percentage. However, when returning to his old stomping grounds, Turco has found nothing but problems.
He has never won an NHL game in Joe Louis Arena.
Since joining the Stars, Turco has played at Joe Louis Arena 10 times, and gone home empty every time. Detroit is the only Western Conference city that has held Turco winless. He has found very little success against the Red Wings at home, either, with a lifetime record of 2-10-5.
For the Stars to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, Turco needs to get the JLA monkey off his back. The Western Conference finals begin Thursday in Detroit.
Turco said that his focus is the future, and not the past.
“Our focus, and everyone playing at this time of year, it’s all about your next save, your next shift, the next game and I’m certainly no different,” Turco said. “Preparing to play now, against anybody, anywhere, rink, pond, day or night, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about preparing to do so.
“I’ve always known in the back of my mind playing these guys and having a lack of success, I’ve always knew that it hasn’t happened in the playoffs and that’s the ultimate test, to see where you stand. To say the least I’m looking forward to it.”
Turco said that even though he’s struggled at JLA as a professional, he still has fond memories of playing there as a collegiate. Michigan frequently plays JLA throughout each season, skating in regular-season games, the Great Lakes Invitational, and the CCHA championships.
“I’ve got a lot of fond memories from JLA in my college days,” he said. “There’s a whole bunch that stand out, I think one of my first CCHA championship games there, I believe it was against (Lake Superior State). It might have even been an overtime win. I played there 20-plus times in college. It’s just such a great environment, all the time to see the maize and blue, and then when they play Michigan State, the green and white in the crowd. We played regularly against LSSU too, a city where I’m close to, and the Upper Peninsula, and it’s got a lot of great memories for me, not just the disappointing ones in the NHL.
“So to draw on experience from all areas of my career, you’re going to do that, but I’m really looking forward to going back there and having some more success.”
Turco comes into JLA after an impressive performance in the four-ovetime win in Game 6 against San Jose on Sunday. He played for 129 minutes in their series-clinching marathon, making 61 saves in a 2-1 win.
In 12 postseason games, the seven-year veteran is 8-4, with a 1.73 goals against and .929 save percentage.
Adding to Turco’s pressure, he will be staring down the league’s hottest scorer in Red Wings center Johan Franzen
, who leads all playoff scorers with 11 goals after scoring nine in the second round against Colorado.
“He’s certainly pumping the goals in, with quite regularly,” Turco said. “Everybody’s taking notice of him scoring the goals, but we’ve talked a lot here about how he’s scoring and what you can do. He’s got great net-presence, but his skill has always been underrated. The willingness for the team to get to the net is important, especially this time of the year, so that’s going to be a factor in this series, the ability to battle in front and for me to see pucks, find them, and anticipate quite often.”
The Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg
noted Turco’s skills both in the net and out of it, saying that he’s good at moving the puck. Turco has been called the Stars’ third defenseman at times, with his ability to pass the puck up on the breakout.
“We know that he likes to play the puck, we just have to keep the puck away from him,” Zetterberg said. “We’re going to have a lot of people in front of him and screen the goalie and tip the pucks to make it a little more difficult for him to see the puck and make plays.”
Dallas captain Brenden Morrow believes that Turco will continue his stellar postseason play into the third round.
“He’s had us on his back for two rounds here, and it’s been real fun to watch,” said Morrow, who has seven playoff goals with four assists. “He’s been spectacular, making the hard saves look easy for us for a long time.”