Wednesday, April 23
May 19, 2:25 PM ET
Turco, Giguere share position, little else
By Mike Heika
Special to ESPN.com
DALLAS -- Marty Turco says he never likes to consider goalies as main rivals in any hockey game.
"We're 180 feet apart," he said. "It's pretty tough for us to score on each other."
But while the two most important players in any series don't battle each other face-to-face, they do fight a mental war. And so it shall be Thursday when Turco's Dallas Stars take on the Mighty Ducks of Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
With Patrick Roy, Curtis Joseph and Chris Osgood eliminated from the playoffs, Turco and Giguere become a bigger part of the focus. No first-year playoff goalie has won the Stanley Cup since Patrick Roy did it in 1986. But either Giguere or Turco will at least advance on to the Western Conference final this season. And with Turco posting a modern-era record goals-against average of 1.72 during the regular season and Giguere dispensing the defending Stanley Cup champions with a 1.24 GAA in the first round of the playoffs, you have to expect there to be at least some talk about their accomplishments.
Turco is 27 and has waited a long time for his chance to become a No. 1 goalie. Giguere is 25 and has battled an equally exasperating path that has him on his third NHL team. Separately, they are interesting studies in how to get the job done. Together, they were the goaltending duo for Team Canada at the World Championships last season.
"Marty Turco and the World Championship? That was a great experience," Giguere said. "He's a world-class athlete. He's really well-liked by his teammates and very friendly in the dressing room. He's a joke-around kind of guy, a lot of fun to be around."
Turco remembers the two weeks in Sweden very similarly.
"We hung out and did a lot of goalie things together," Turco joked. "He was definitely a guy you could have dinner with."
But that's where the similarities ended.
"The similarities are the position and we wear masks," Turco said. "We're pretty close in age, but the point of how we got here is a huge difference. You name it, from him going major junior to me going college, from his style to my style, it's pretty major in the difference area."
Turco went to the University of Michigan, led the Wolverines to two NCAA championships (1996 and 1998) and set the NCAA record for career victories at 127. He was taken 124th overall in the 1994 entry draft by Dallas and has slowly been moved through the Stars organization since 1998, playing two seasons in the minors and two seasons as Ed Belfour's back up before finally getting his big chance this season.
He responded with a 31-10-10 record, a 1.72 GAA and a .932 save percentage (leading the NHL in the last two categories).
Giguere started with Verdun of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was traded to Halifax, then fashioned an outstanding junior career. He was taken 13th overall by Hartford in the 1995 entry draft and, after going 1-4-0 in his NHL debut with Carolina in 1996-97, was part of the deal that landed the Hurricanes Gary Roberts and Trevor Kidd from Calgary in 1997.
Giguere never really found his stride in the Flames organization and Calgary traded him to Anaheim for a second-round draft pick in the summer of 2000. It turned out to be the best move ever for the Montreal native who was a huge fan of Patrick Roy.
Once in Anaheim, Giguere was teamed with Roy's old coach Francois Allaire, and the two immediately clicked.
"When I came here to Anaheim three years ago, my game wasn't nearly as good as it could have been, my confidence level was very low. I wasn't sure if I could ever play in the NHL," Giguere said. "He just brought my game back to a very simple way of playing."
Giguere slowly battled and eventually took the No. 1 goaltending job away from Steve Shields by posting a 2.13 GAA last season. In his first season as the team's No. 1, he had a 34-22-6 record, a 2.30 GAA, a .920 save percentage and strung together a shutout streak of 237:07 -- the third longest in the modern era. But he didn't jump into the national spotlight until he held Detroit to six goals in four games and posted a .965 save percentage in a sweep of the Red Wings.
"When I think of the best young goaltenders in the NHL, I think of him and Roberto Luongo," said Red Wings GM Ken Holland, a former goalie himself. "He's technically sound. I expect he's going to play very, very well in the playoffs."
The same could be said for Turco, who had a little trouble in his first playoff series, but grew from the experience. He let in some soft goals against the Oilers, but he also was exceptional at crunch time and battled hard against an Edmonton team bent on making him pay for his frequent trips out of the net to play the puck.
"You have to go through something like this when you're the focus of another team," Turco said of the physical test. "I've never experienced a challenge like this before."
Turco injured his ankle and missed 18 games during the regular season, but the ankle stood up to the first-round abuse and he said Tuesday that he's feeling better with a few days off. He also said he doesn't plan on changing his style. He enjoys playing the puck and said he believes it helps the Stars negate an opposing team's forecheck.
But it's how Turco plays the puck that makes him unique. He doesn't mind rushing out of the net to beat an opposing forward to a loose puck high in either of the circles. He also doesn't mind throwing the occasional shoulder when the two collide, prompting Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish to tell Turco he was open game.
Of course, that's not the only thing unique about Turco's style. A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, he plays more like Dominik Hasek than he does any North American goalie and he professes to never really studying any particular style when he was young.
He simply chuckles when asked to compare the styles of he and his second round opponent.
Still, he looks forward to facing off against Giguere, even if the two will never be closer than 180 feet away.
"Right now, we're both trying to give our team a chance to win the Stanley Cup playoffs and it's relatively new to the both of us," Turco said. "I think we're both having a great time enjoying the challenge of it. It's unfortunate someone is going to have to lose after this round."
SERIES STORY LINES
While goaltending will definitely be at the center of the Stars-Ducks series, it is far from the only area of focus. In fact, if you want story lines, the series is full of them:
• The love-hate triangle of Jason Arnott-Petr Sykora-Derian Hatcher is about as strange as you can get in a series. Arnott and Sykora are great friends and former members of the "A Line" in New Jersey, and Arnott counts bringing the Stanley Cup to Sykora in the hospital after Game 6 in 2000 as one of the most emotional moments in his life. So why was Sykora in the hospital? He was knocked out on a vicious open ice hit during Game 6 by Hatcher, who just now happens to be Arnott's teammate.
• Stars coach Dave Tippett twice interviewed to coach the Mighty Ducks and was a part of the Los Angeles area rivalry for three seasons as an assistant coach with the Kings. As part of the preparation to interview for the job two seasons ago, he studied every element of the Mighty Ducks organization, including prospects that are now with the team.
• Mike Modano has had more success against the Mighty Ducks (62 points in 43 career games) than any other team he has faced. What's more, no player in the NHL has scored more points against the Ducks. How Anaheim tries to stop Modano, who has 10 points in six playoff games this season, will definitely be a huge part of the game plan. The obvious choice would be matching Steve Rucchin against Modano, but Anaheim coach Mike Babcock might try a different approach.
• The Stars were without three of their top offensive players in Game 6 of the first round. Neither Pierre Turgeon (ankle) nor Bill Guerin (thigh) have played in any playoff games and Jason Arnott (undisclosed) sat out Game 6. Turgeon is a definite for Game 1 and Arnott is a probable. Guerin is a questionable for Game 1, but said he will definitely play at some time in the series. While that should be good news for the Stars, it could break up some delicate chemistry. Modano has played very well with Scott Young (a former Mighty Duck) and Brenden Morrow, so Guerin could play beside Arnott when he returns.
-- Mike Heika
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.