I'm not looking to start a controversy.
I'm just being honest.
Marty Turco has not been good the first two games this season. He's made a few great stops (his best came on a one-timer by Jason Arnott) and one incredible pass down the ice for an assist, but overall he's had a shaky start and has not looked comfortable when the puck gets in close to the net. Last season, when Turco started to wear down and the goals started to pile up again in February and March, I noted that his play seemed indicative that he wasn't playing confident between the pipes. That's what I'm seeing now.
The most worrisome part of what we've seen so far from Turco is that he is quick to hit the ice. Four of his six allowed goals have come when he's hit the ice sooner than he needed to. He's started a flop and twitch along the goalline, losing sight of the puck and putting himself out of position in the process. He's also been backing himself up in the crease, leaving wide open holes for the puck to get through. Mike Comrie and Sam Gagner's goals for Edmonton are perfect examples of Turco not being positionally sound in the crease.
When you start to see these two signs: back in the crease, a sudden willingness to hit the ice as soon as the puck comes within 10 feet of the net; then it screams to me that Turco is not confident in his ability to challenge a shooter. That's an issue, just two weeks in. By all accounts, he's had as good an offseason as he ever has as a Dallas Star and he looked sharp in the preseason. The team hired Mike Valley to pretty much be his personal goalie coach, a guy who isn't afraid to be honest with Turco and a coach whom he appears to have respect for.
Two games in, the Stars are just being honest with Turco and themselves.
The good news about Turco's less-than-solid start is the the Stars have a very capable backup who can step in and be solid in net, giving Turco time to rest and recuperate throughout the long season. All signs are pointing towards Alex Auld making the start tomorrow night against Calgary; which is great except we're just two games into the season.
This start isn't so much about resting Turco (although there was a pretty good chance Auld was going to start one of these games on the road anyway), as it about heading off a problem before it becomes a big issue. Turco is notorious for getting off to slow starts in his career, and last season he was horrendous in October. Except the Stars didn't have a backup they were confident with and Turco was forced to play through his early season struggles while dealing with locker room distractions at the same time. It was not a good combination.
Alex Auld was brought in to provide the Stars a safety zone in net, and just a few games into the season he's being called upon to be just that. Dallas has looked disjointed and a bit schizophrenic on the ice, up and down emotionally throughout the game and allowing too many fluky chances down low in front of the net. Against Edmonton, the Stars were unable to hold three one-goal leads, when Turco was unable to step up and make the big saves when the team was fighting to maintain momentum.
Everything that Turco has struggled with the first two games is one of the big strengths of Alex Auld. He's not going to make the flashy, athletic saves that Turco does but he positionally sound and plays smart when the play gets tight around the crease. Not spectacular, just flashy. With the Stars still fighting to gain an identity as a team under Crawford, stability in net is the one factor that can calm things down. Keep an ugly, sloppy game from getting out of hand.
Mike Heika reports that with Auld getting the start tomorrow, Turco is working hard to get right back on the ice and play like he's capable of doing.
By the way, I like this plan for giving Turco rest and work. He pushed it hard today, he worked on a lot of basic things and on keeping his patience and position. He and Valley seem to have a very good chemistry where they can be very honest with each other, and I think both believe Turco can be better than he was the first two games. If this works as it is drawn up on paper, Turco will be able to work on a few things at the morning skate, have a good practice day Saturday and be ready for a big game in Vancouver on Sunday.
I realize that the disappointment of the first two games are not all Marty Turco's fault. The defense is just as much to blame on most of his allowed goals as well. Yet right now the team needs stability in net, and Turco looked just as shaky as the rest of the Stars and fortunately the Stars made sure they had a plan in place to give him the time necessary to get things straightened out if they started to go awry.
Turco hasn't been horrible, but this is a chance for him and the team to head off disaster at the pass.
Other news & notes:
- Jere Lehtinen is looking great and practicing on the fourth line but most likely won't start until Sunday.
- Mike Modano is still about a week away from getting back on the ice.
- Brenden Morrow appeared on BaD Radio this afternoon. Andrew's Stars Page has the audio here.
- The Calgary Herald has an article on Joe Nieuwendyk, "G.I. Joe morphs into G.M. Joe"
- The Calgary Flames are playing the first of back-to-back games tonight, before taking on the Stars tomorrow night at home. Md\iikka Kiprusoff is scheduled to play tonight, and Curtis McElhinney could make his Flames debut tomorrow night.