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Film Review: Analyzing Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars Team Defense

I can't promise one of these film reviews after every game, but each goal in Sunday night's game gave us an interesting look at what's going on with Turco in net, as well as the Stars penalty kill.

After the shootout loss against Vancouver in which Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars penalty kill allowed two more goals after going a man down, fans have started to feel a bit conflicted. On one hand, the team has yet to technically lose and have gained a point in every game, including four of six points on a Western Canada road trip. That's just as good as two regulation wins and a regulation loss.

What's most frustrating is that in the three games Marty Turco has started, the Stars have had inconsistent effort on the ice and have yet to win. In the one game Alex Auld started, the Stars played a complete game with solid defense and some above average goaltending. It's set the table for a very interesting debate about what should happen in net, especially if this trend continues.

After taking a very informal poll of Stars fans over the past 24 hours, I've determined that the majority of fans are not ready to jump off the Marty Turco wagon just yet. It's not as if Turco has allowed four and five goals a game and the Stars are being blown out because of it. He hasn't lost yet this season either (technically), and he's certainly been much better than last season at this point. Yet there are still some concerning issues we've seen with Turco over his first three games.

In this edition of Film Review, we take a look the goals allowed by Turco in the loss to Vancouver and examine exactly what is (or isn't) going wrong. We'll also see how the Dallas Stars penalty kill was even worse against Vancouver.

Follow the jump for a lengthy, in depth breakdown of each goal allowed Sunday night.

[Note: Click on the image for a larger version. All text references the photo above.]

Goal #1: PPG, 14:45 1st Period - Ryan Kesler, assisted by Mikael Samuelsson

The Setup: We start off with the Stars on the verge of killing off their first penalty of the game with Nicklas Grossman in the box for hooking. Just 12 seconds remain in the Canucks' power play, but they've started to cycle the puck along the far boards (left of Marty Turco) between Samuelsson, Kesler and Christian Ehrhoff.


Above, we see Samuelsson with the puck as he skates towards the top of the circle. He has a good look at Turco and the net and a good shooting lane with Trevor Daley in perfect position to block a shot while not obstructing Turco's view. Notice how Turco has perfect positioning for a right handed shot from that side (red line). This is exactly how the Stars should play this shot.



Here, Samuelsson has dropped the puck off to Kesler (top) who skates with the puck towards nearly the exact same position as before. This time however, Daley has shifted a bit to his left, perhaps to try and cover Samuelsson on the boards. With a Canuck fighting for position in front, Turco now has this lane obstructed (highlighted in blue).



Here is where Daley screening Turco really starts to come into focus. As Kesler drops low and tenses for what promises to be a wicked snap shot, Turco has started to slide a bit to his right (yellow arrow) as he tries to see between Daley and the Canuck in front. He's also backed a bit into his crease, leaving the top, left corner of the net exposed (red circle).



As Kesler releases his shot, Daley is now completely screening Turco who has flinched to his right. As the puck sails past Turco (in red), the goaltender doesn't react to the shot until the puck is well past his glove and into the net.

Verdict: Tough to truly fault Turco on this goal. Once Daley slid to his left and screened him, Turco had to quickly choose which side he'd try and peak around. Technically, he should have defaulted to his left and towards his post, since the short side shot is the higher percentage shot from a right-handed shooter from that side and especially with traffic in front. The probability of Kesler being able to hit a shot across Turco's body and into the far side of the net through traffic is very low. This was a split second decision, an instinctual decision, and Turco chose the right instead of left. It's not much, just a lean in one direction instead of the other, but it opened up a clean shot for Kesler.


Goal #2: PPG, 16:46 2nd Period - Alexandre Burrows, assisted by Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Sedin

The Setup: The Stars tied the game in the first period, yet once again find themselves scrambling on the penalty kill. A few big shots from the point have rebounded off Turco yet the Stars have failed to clear and the Canucks start to cycle the puck. We are just 30 seconds into the power play as the Stars start to collapse down low.


With Henrik Sedin holding the puck (red circle) in the left corner, all four Dallas Stars on the ice lock on as they start to collapse down low. Despite our talk last week about the aggressive style the Stars have employed on the penalty kill, here they are a bit conservative as they try to protect the middle of the ice from the big passes the Canucks excel at. Notice Burrows down low battling with Stephane Robidas, and all four Stars players locked on and staring down Sedin and the puck (highlighted in blue). Anyone covering the backside Canuck on the point?



As Sedin passes the puck across the slot (red circle), four Dallas Stars players turn and watch the puck travel across to the open man on the backside (blue arrows). Brad Richards makes a sudden lunge at the puck to try and block the pass (red arrow), but what's most alarming is seeing Burrows released and allowed to sit off the side of the net all alone.



Stephane Robidas attempts a shot-blocking slide as Samuelsson receives the pass (red circle). Notice all four Stars (once again) locked onto the puck, with one down low (a diving Robidas) and three trapped high. Burrows is all alone to Turco's left with a wide open net staring him down.



If Burrows had been right handed, this might have been an easy tap in goal. But the pass comes to his left and bit behind him, forced in part by a sliding Robidas, as Marty Turco starts his slide from right to left. In Turco's mind, this is a bit of a desperation reach with his left pad, much like his incredible save on Sedin in the first period. But with Burrows unable to get off a quick shot, Turco is going to be caught in a slide to his left as the puck starts to to cross in front of him. Notice the positioning of the paddle in his right hand, this will be crucial is just half a second.



As Burrows gathers the puck to sweep across a sliding Turco, there are no Dallas Stars in the area to contest the shot. Turco is in mid slide but has broken his butterfly positioning as he was caught between stacking his pads and a splits-save. His right pad is caught under him, and his paddle is off the ice and facing the wrong way (facing to the sky) on his right side.



Burrows jams the puck past Turco, as the upturned goal stick acts as a ramp for the puck into the back of the net. Once again notice Turco's right pad underneath him, without anything resembling coverage of the bottom of the net.

Verdict: Whew! First, we'll look at the penalty kill. It's important to remember that this play happened extremely fast, but............ Several times against the Canucks the Stars became locked on the puck and allowed the extra player on the backside to sneak into the play from the point. You can't cover everyone on the penalty kill, but you absolutely cannot lose sight of those extra players behind you. Against a team like Vancouver, who can move the puck with lightning speed from one side to the other, I can understand wanting to stay tight around the slot and not allow that big pass. Yet when three of your penalty killers locks on to the puck and lose positioning, that coverage in front of the net is compromised. Robidas was caught in no-man's land: does he cover the backside of the net or challenge a wide open shot from the point? Ideally, he'd allow Turco to contest the shot one on one and continue to cover the player alone on the side of the net. Turco should have no trouble challenging that shot from the top of the circle, and it's the defense's job to cover his back and not allow that backdoor tip in.

On Turco: Tough to really nitpick him on such a bang-bang play with poor defensive coverage, but some basic goaltender mechanics failed Turco here. I can't say for certain what his intentions were as he broke to his left, but it's obvious he became stuck between one move and another. Regardless, goaltenders are taught to always have their paddle facing the play, on the ice and ready as you slide from one side to the other. Turco had his right arm caught behind him as he started to stack the pads, and was unable to properly contest the sweeping shot from Burrows.


Goal #3: 6:53, 3rd Period - Willie Mitchell, 'assisted' by Steve Bernier

The Setup: The Stars have just battled back to tie the game 2-2 in the third period. Just two minutes later, the Canucks are circling in their offensive zone with the puck, putting heavy pressure on Marty Turco and the Stars. Turco turns away several shots, but the Stars are unable to clear the puck and Steve Bernier sets up behind the net as nearly every other players on the ice converges on the goal.


Here, Henrik Sedin sets up behind the net with the puck. This is a very fast-developing play, as the Stars try to instantly react to several Canucks converging on the net at once. As Stever Bernier slide open a bit in front, Sedin throws the puck into the crease. Take note of Fabian Brunnstrom covering down on a pinching Willie Mitchell.



The puck bounces around in the crease in front of Marty Turco as Bernier takes a big swipe from just outside the crease. We now have several Stars players in on the action around the net, but none can get a handle on the puck as it comes in from behind the net.



Here you can see the puck ricocheting off Turco (red circle) as Bernier whiffs on his full body hack and goes down to his knees. Willie Mitchell has gotten inside leverage on Brunnstrom and has his stick in perfect position for any wayward rebound that's sure to pop out. Notice Marty Turco (and several Stars players) and looking in the completely opposite direction of the puck.



As Mitchell gets a quick shot off the rebound and through Bernier (red arrow), Marty Turco is STILL not looking in the right direction. The puck finds the wide open right side of the net as Brunnstrom fails miserably in defensive coverage.



Count them: FIVE Dallas Stars players with eight feet of the puck as Mitchell snaps in the rebound. That's amazing, actually.

Verdict: You can't say Brunnstrom didn't know his job. As the right wing, his role in the defensive zone is to ensure the defensemen on the point don't get a free release to the top of the crease. He tracked Mitchell all the way down, but was out-muscled by the larger and more experienced defenseman. He lost leverage and never came close to lifting a stick. Trevor Daley and Marty Turco completely lost sight of the puck as it came bouncing out from behind the net. They did what they were supposed: not allow an open pass or shot to come from that direction. Mitchell was lucky and the puck bounced right onto his stick. Not a complete breakdown for the Stars on that one at least.


The Shootout:

Let's take a quick look at the shootout, since that's where fans are most concerned with Turco.


On the first goal Kyle Wellwood, Turco was once again caught deep in his net and between moves. He was guessing on a backhand and was prepared to stack his pads to his left (I'm guessing), but instead Wellwood dekes left and sweeps right. Notice Turco's left pad caught under him and his paddle once again off to the side and facing skyward. Turco was badly beaten on this move.



This is interesting, and a good exercise in goaltender positioning.

For a right-handed goalie, it's tough to stay square on a right-handed shooter coming down from their right side. The natural move is to cheat a bit to the outside as the goaltender want to protect the post, while counting on a big shot to the glove side is easily reachable.

Here, we see Turco cheating heavily to his right and leaving a gaping area of the net open for Kesler to exploit (I  know this isn't the shooters POV, but if you had seen the FSN broadcast and the replay of this shot from their angle, it's apparent how much was open for this shot).



Here's what was most disturbing about Turco's mechanics on this goal. Not only is he cheating to his right, but his glove is nowhere near ready. Now, this may be his personal taste, quirks, style, whatever, but Turco cannot expect to nab a snap shot from that close on the left side with his glove facing the wrong way and right near his side.

Notice above how Turco hasn't been pushed too deep in his crease, but as Kesler releases the shot Turco's just not prepared for such a hard shot to that side.


Final Verdict:

Marty Turco isn't playing horrible. We focused on the goals allowed today, but what I didn't show was the great and solid saves he made in the second period when the Stars were barely able to muster a shot. He controlled his rebounds well and played with a bit more confidence, but it's still obvious that he's just not completely comfortable.

The mistakes made above are correctable, but they're also instinctual. Has this been Turco's mechanics all along yet he was still able to make the save based on his athleticism? Now that he's older and his reflexes aren't what they once were, are his bad mechanics and tendencies in net being exposed? We shall see in the coming weeks.