OK, I know that the Dallas Stars aren't technically part of the Battle of California, but let's face it, the Pacific Division is basically BoC + Dallas + Gretzky.
Anyway, two Saturdays ago (I know, I know) I was able to take in an extraordinary game at the American Airlines Center between the soon-to-be KC Masterpiece (the Penguins) and the aforementioned Stars.
It was an absolutely fantastic game, with a heavy dosage of Penguin fans, lively end-to-end competition, an outstanding overtime period and a SO win for the tentative Penguins.
As I watched the upstart Penguins sneak by the crippled Stars, I realized something. The Dallas Stars certainly will not take the Pacific Division this year, but I hate to say it: this might be their best chance in years to go deep into the playoffs.
Would I bet my house on Marty Turco and Co. to drink Shiner Bock out of Lord Stanley's Cup? Well, not quite. But then again, I would not have wagered on Peyton Elmer Fudd Manning to do it either, and look what happened. Ugh.
Marty Turco is the Manning of NHL goalies.
The parallels are horrifying. They both appear poised in front of a TV camera, although Turco settles for local Comcast spots and lovable mic-ups on barely viewed All-Star Games while Manning mugs for just about everything other than urinal cakes. Their regular season stats are gaudy: Manning holds the single season TD record and Turco (briefly) had the best pre-WWII GAA before Kipper stole it from him.
And then, as we all know, the bottom falls out once the games start to count. Manning always crapped the bed against Tom Brady, the Red Sox always lost to the Yankees and Turco sucks in the playoffs.
But with Manning "getting the monkey off of his back," maybe we should look at a few other similarities between the two. Much like Manning, Turco will finally go into the playoffs as an outright underdog. And much like Manning, Turco's supporting cast is deceptively good.
Sure, the Stars are a #6 seed, but they've done that with Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov and Brendan Morrow missing significant amounts of playing time. If Morrow can round into shape come playoff time (he's tentatively expected to come back in March), the Stars might be the type of sleeping giant that could dismantle a No. 3 seed (especially the paper thin Canucks) and make a certain probable No. 2 seed very nervous.
Turco with as little pressure as possible, a hardworking offense and a very solid defense. It might just take the easiest-to-ignore Stars team to finally win in the playoffs again. Hey, if it worked for Peyton and his wildcard Colts, it could work for anyone.