Time to Put Up
Judgment Day is fast approaching for Stars goalie Marty Turco and four other top-tier players who are in danger of being branded postseason busts
Posted: Tuesday April 3, 2007 11:54AM; Updated: Tuesday April 10, 2007 1:33PM
The food was exquisite, the evening historic. On the March night that Mike Modano became the second U.S.-born player to score 500 goals, several Stars congregated for a celebratory supper in a swank Dallas restaurant. While Modano dined with some teammates and friends at a long table in the center of the room, the Stars' No. 1 goalie, Marty Turco, who hadn't played in the game but had thumped the plexiglass behind the bench with gusto after the milestone goal, sat at a satellite table with his wife, his agent, his sister and her husband. "You should send a bottle of wine over to Mike," said Turco's wife, Kelly.
"[No], we're planning a big party when he [breaks Joe Mullen's mark of 502]," replied Turco. The jovial mood could not be spoiled even when talk turned to the looming NHL playoffs and someone uttered a word that should never be part of polite dinner conversation -- especially at Turco's table.
The Stars' most voluble player was not fazed. "I can say this about choking: A lot of great athletes we put on pedestals have choked, in the common definition of choking," Turco said. "Have I choked? Who knows. By my definition, I don't think I have."
The 31-year-old Turco is a two-time All-Star. In his first season as the Dallas starter, in 2002-03, he set the modern record for goals-against average, 1.72. He was a member of Canada's Olympic team in Turin. In a perfect world, Turco, as self-aware as he is gifted, would be a playoff god; in fact, the goalie with an unimpeachable regular-season record -- "Regular season, he's a machine," Modano says -- has been irredeemable in the playoffs. After falling in the second round in '03, he has been outplayed by the hardly distinguished David Aebischer and off-the-radar José Théodore while losing to Colorado in the first round of two straight postseasons.
When goals are at a premium and save percentages trend upward -- in 2005-06, the playoff average was half a goal lower than in the regular season -- Turco's have tended to dip: from .913 to a woeful .849 in 2003-04 and from .898 to .868 last year. Turco's misadventures, of course, don't exist in a vacuum. The Stars' inability to net timely goals has shortened their springs. "If Marty didn't have to play until four o'clock every morning," says Dallas G.M. Doug Armstrong, whose team lost three overtime playoff games in 2006, "maybe we wouldn't be having this conversation." Says forward Brenden Morrow, "Marty's taken the brunt, but I was plus-30 in the regular season and [minus-1 last spring]. I took a dumb penalty in Game 3 at the end. Lots of mistakes out there. Marty makes them. I make them." Excuses are readily available -- life, after all, is context -- but Turco rejects them, saying simply he is "almost 100 percent sure it won't happen again." He might not be a clutch player, but he isn't a crutch player, either.
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