Turco the defenseman
In playing the Dallas Stars in the upcoming Western Conference final (series begins 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Versus), the Red Wings will have to deal with one of the most skilled goaltenders with the puck in Marty Turco. He's also one of the most aggressive in leaving his net to play a loose puck.
"It's going to be a big part of this series," said Detroit forward Darren McCarty. "He's touches the puck more than any goalie."
While the NHL doesn't track touches by goaltenders, Turco's pattern of activity can be seen in his assist totals and penalty minutes.
Turco is one of three goalies with an assist in these playoffs. During the regular season, Turco was fifth among NHL goalies with three assists and second with 16 penalty minutes. Last winter, he was first in helpers with four and sixth in PIMs with 18. Two years ago, Turco led NHL netminders with 28 penalty minutes.
Ask the Red Wings and they'll tell you that Turco, Rick DiPietro and Martin Brodeur are the three best puck-handling goaltenders in the NHL.
Detroit forward Dan Cleary watched Dallas' series clinching win over San Jose, Sunday night, and thought that Turco's aggressiveness playing the puck in four overtime periods was noteable.
"He gets to the puck really quick," said Cleary. "Even in the overtime, the four overtimes, he was out touching everything. It's risky. He's high-risk, high-reward."
So what can the Red Wings do to negate the advantage that Turco's puck-handling skills give the Stars?
Detroit's forwards say that the player who dumps the puck into the zone has to keep it away from Turco, so that if he plays it, he's far from home. Then, the second and third forwards have to play like safeties in football.
Turco likes to pass the puck up the middle and he likes to go against the flow of traffic with a pass behind his back.
"The biggest thing is the guy has to put the puck in where he can't get it, whether it's soft so it doesn't get there or it's a hard diagonal," said Cleary. "That's a big factor on the forecheck. If he does get it -- and he will -- you've got to pressure him, force him to make a play that he doesn't want."
The benefit for Dallas when Turco plays the puck is more than just another breakout pass. When Turco goes for the puck, the Stars' align differently than most teams.
When a goalie plays the puck on most teams, one defenseman will head for the net to start the breakout while the other blue-liner will run some interference and go wide to provide an outlet target.
When Turco plays the puck, both Stars defensemen will go wide as pass-targets, expecting their netminder to quarterback the breakout.
"It's a big thing for them," said Maltby. "He's like a third defenseman. He can get the puck up the ice as good as a defenseman. I see him throw a goalline-to-almost-blue-line breakout pass. He's definitely a threat back there if you're being a little lazy changing (lines)."