Despite his recent struggles, Marty Turco is still a (slightly) above average goalie

Thumbnail image for depressedturco.jpgMarty Turco is in a rough spot right now. There simply aren’t a whole lot of options for a veteran goalie in a netminder market gone considerably dry.

Tomorrow night, I’ll take a look at a few semi-reasonable possible destinations, but honestly, he might be the equivalent of a hockey goalie hitchhiker at the moment, hoping that someone somewhere will pick him up on a whim.

Before I get into who might give him a chance at redemption, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at his post-lockout struggles.

Adam Gretz of NHL Fanhouse had a nice breakdown that featured three hypotheses for why Turco has struggled. Before I get to those, here’s a screen grab of a very telling pre vs. post lockout comparison for Turco’s career from Gretz’s post. (click to enlarge)

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(Note: The post-lockout sample is obviously MUCH larger, so you might want to take that into consideration when looking at the undeniably telling contrast.)

If you’re curious, here is how I feel about Gretz’s hypotheses. His first guess, “The Trapezoid Rule” might account for a bit of discomfort for Turco, but I doubt it had much of an impact. “Declining athleticism” might have a tad bit to do with his struggles – he is already 34 years old – but I think that the league, in general, is becoming an unfriendly place for unorthodox goalies. Sound positioning, on the whole, is becoming a lot more valuable than abstract goalie expressionism.

The strongest point (one I’d guess Gretz feels the most favorable toward, as well) is that the defense in front of Turco dried up considerably. As the Stars shifted from a veteran defensive lineup featuring the criminally underrated Sergei Zubov to a young, shaggy-dog group lead by (not so young) Stephane Robidas, things started to fall apart in front of the puck-moving netminder. It doesn’t help, either, that Turco lost a sharp defensive-minded coach in Dave Tippett for … well, whatever you want to call Marc Crawford.

The problem is that NHL GMs may look at Turco as the mere beneficiary of a great defensive system. He missed the playoffs two years in a row, isn’t getting any younger and has been prone to his fair share of brain farts.

After a truly disastrous 08-09 campaign (he finished the year with a sub-90 percent save percentage but was even worse in the beginning of the season), Turco actually had a respectable save percentage (91.3) but only went 22-20-11 in 09-10. At times, he was out-played by temporary backup Alex Auld and then relinquished some starts to Stars goalie of the future Kari Lehtonen.

Now, anyone who expects Turco to bounce back to the form he showed in his first three seasons (once at a magnificent 93 percent save percentage and 1.72 GAA, two more times above 92 percent and twice under two goals per game allowed) is dreaming. Still, he’s played in nine NHL seasons and only dipped below the standard 90 percentage mark twice. He tends to hover around 91 percent, which I’d say makes him a clear starter, even if he’s not always at an All-Star level.

In other words, Turco is a worthy NHL goalie. The often-cocky goalie might need to get a little more realistic about his own aging abilities, though. I’ll discuss some semi-reasonable possibilities on Monday (none of which, mind you, are outrageously promising), but my ultimate finding is that Turco is worthy of an NHL job somewhere. Even if it’s a 1a-1b situation.

Overall, he needs to accept the fact that a starting job won’t come easy, if it comes at all.

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    Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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    When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

    Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

    You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

    The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

    Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

    From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

    The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

    This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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    BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

    At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

    Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

    A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

    For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

    More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

    Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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    Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

    Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

    When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

    Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

    There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

    Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

    Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

    Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

    It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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    PROJECTED LINEUPS

    Pittsburgh Penguins

    Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

    Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

    Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

    Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

    Brian DumoulinKris Letang

    Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

    Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

    Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

    [NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

    Ducks

    Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

    Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

    Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

    Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

    Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

    Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

    Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

    Starting goalie: John Gibson