Saturday, November 29, 2008

Problem between the pipes

Sitting in the American Airlines Center watching shot after shot find its way around Stars goalie Marty Turco, I kept trying to explain to my dad how it's not always the goalie's fault. After each goal tingled the twine, I kept finding ways to explain them. A poor turnover by a Stars defender. A solid screen in front of the net. But after five goals in a 6-2 loss against San Jose, there are simply no more excuses. The problem is #35. And that’s a tough pill to swallow after such an amazing run last spring.

I assumed that coming within two wins of the Stanley Cup finals last year would buy Turco some clemency for his awful start this season. But at what point do we have to just wake up and realize that this thing, which looked so good last spring, is simply not going to be what it was.

When the third period began with the Stars trailing the first-place Sharks 5-1, Tobias Stephan stood in the crease as Marty slumped onto the bench with a towel around his neck. His night was over. And what of his season?

It's getting harder and harder to defend a guy who for two straight postseasons has been otherworldly. It seemed after every game last spring, all anyone could say was that Marty stood on his head again to bail the Stars out and keep the playoff run alive. This year, there will be no deep playoff run. It's time to wake up: the injury-plagued, last-place Stars are done. Their season is over before it really started.

Think about all those Texas Rangers teams that would hit June already 15 or 20 games out of first place. This is the same thing, just colder. Check the standings, the Stars are already 21 points off the division lead. And while Dallas is only a mere 6 points out of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference standings, would it matter if they make it? What would lie ahead? A four-game execution-style series at the hands of the Sharks. No thank you.

Turco has six wins this season. Six! His goal against average is 3.64, second-worst in the NHL. But as bad as Marty is, Tobias Stephan is not the answer. In his five games this year, his GAA is 3.47. Great, just great.

Many will say the answer is now between the pipes in Tampa Bay, where Mike Smith is only 5-5-6 on the year. But the answer is really a combination of the two. Having two capable netminders on the roster. Sadly, right now Dallas doesn't even have one.

So you can look to the injuries to Morrow, Lehtinen and Ott as to why this team can't score. You can say acquiring Sean Avery wasn't worth the risk. You can even say the Brad Richards trade was pointless. But you can't deny the problem with the Stars starts between the pipes.

It's a problem that either must fix itself before the front office takes matters into its own hands.

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