Monday, February 12, 2007

Help Between the Pipes

Above, please find the Dallas Stars best goaltender right now, Mike Smith.

As you know, I am both a fan of Marty Turco, the person, and a critic of Marty Turco, the goalie.

No one has more class, and says the right thing more often.

But, no one seems to fail to rise to the occasion more often when he is between the pipes and the heat is on.

The Playoffs of 2003?

The Playoffs of 2004?

The Playoffs of 2006?

Any game against Detroit?

The game after signing a huge extension?

The game after being named to the Canadian Olympic team?

And now, the game after Mike Smith shut out Anaheim, thus putting the heat on Turco?

I know it is silly to say he is not a good goalie. He is the Stars leader in every goaltending career category, he is an all-star every season, and he is still widely liked.

But, how many times does he have to demonstrate that he cannot be trusted when the chips are down before this team begins to head the other direction?

I would say we are almost there. They just needed someone behind him who they might trust more. For the last few seasons they employed backup veterans who had no aspirations of taking Marty’s job. Not anymore.

Say hello to Mike Smith. It is really early, but with each chance, Smith is showing that he isn’t just here to wear a baseball hat.

And the sooner he can show that he doesn’t have the nervous habit of meltdowns at the worst possible spot, the sooner he will get the call in April and May.

You ask, Who is Mike Smith? You may have also asked, who is Tony Romo?

This is getting very interesting.

Stars beat the Avalanche, sweep the weekend

The good news for the Stars on Sunday was that goalie Mike Smith won his third consecutive game and appears over the midseason jitters and concussion problems that had put a huge dent in his rookie campaign.

The bad news was that No. 1 goalie Marty Turco was pulled as the starter for the second consecutive time and appears as frustrated as he has been this season.

Dallas won a wild 7-5 game against Colorado at American Airlines Center and became
one of the hotter teams in the NHL, pushing its current run to 8-2-1. At 34-20-2, the Stars have 70 points and are four points behind Pacific Division leader Anaheim.

"We're just finding ways to win," center Mike Modano said. "We're focusing on gathering points and letting the standings fall where they may."

But inside the good news is a frustrated Turco, who was pulled for the fifth time this season – getting yanked after a long-distance goal cut the Stars' lead to 4-3.
"You're disappointed with the way it happens, letting the guys down with not great goals," Turco said. "I was pretty [upset], because I don't know if I've ever been taken out with a lead before."

Tippett said he just felt the Stars needed a change. Dallas earned a 3-0 lead, thanks to hard-working goals from Trevor Daley, Stu Barnes and Jere Lehtinen, but then Turco let a shot slip through his pads late in the first period to give the struggling Avalanche a glimpse of hope. While Niklas Hagman seemed to bury that hope on a pretty two-on-one pass from Jussi Jokinen three minutes into the second period, Colorado made it 4-3 when Paul Stastny jumped on a rebound and Wojtek Wolski scored from distance on Turco. Smith then came on in relief.

The rookie also came on in relief after Turco allowed two goals on seven shots Tuesday against Minnesota. Smith stopped 15 shots en route to a 4-2 Stars victory in that game. He had 32 saves Saturday in a 1-0 victory against Anaheim. Against Colorado, he was more ordinary, but he still made enough saves (12 on 14 shots) to earn the win, pushing his record to 8-3-0.

Smith had one fantastic save in the second period against Colorado's Ben Guite and then held on through four Colorado power plays in the third period. In between, he let in two goals that at one point closed the gap to 6-5.

Still, he gained a great deal of confidence during the stretch and established a career-best shutout streak of 131:06. He also earned the confidence of the coaching staff, which will consider starting him Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings.
Turco, meanwhile, is battling confidence problems.

"I certainly don't think that I can't play or that my career is over," he said "But when you're fighting it, and your coach has got his finger on the button, you're going to play a little tentative or overaggressive."

Still, this dip has been relatively short. Turco played in 22 consecutive games before the recent slump and had an 11-8-2 record in that span while tending goal in front of an injury-depleted Stars lineup.

Some numbers from Saturday’s win

Rookie Mike Smith notched his third NHL shutout in Dallas' 1-0 win over the Ducks. Smith's third shutout came in just the ninth start of his career. In the NHL's "modern era" (since 1943-44, when the center-ice red line was introduced), the only other goaltender to record three shutouts by his ninth career start was Toronto's Ed Chadwick, who did that in his eighth start in 1956.

Mike Smith also tied the Stars franchise record for shutouts in one season by a rookie goaltender (three), a mark set by his current partner, Marty Turco, in 2000-01.

In other news, the Mavericks played some High School team from Philadelphia; And beat them like a rented mule

Good teams? Bad teams? It matters not.

They handle them in the same unbiased fashion – running them out of the gym.

If it's a good Houston team, no problem. If it's a lottery-bound bunch of Philadelphia 76ers, like Sunday evening, they get the same treatment.

The Sixers were buried in no time as the Mavericks pulled away in the first half, weathered the inevitable mild rally, then took off with a 106-89 victory at Wachovia Center. It was the seventh consecutive win for the Mavericks and their third in a row by at least 16 points. For the season, 13 of their 42 wins are by 16 or more.

And they keep pulling away from the competition in other ways, too.

San Antonio lost to Miami on Sunday and trails the Mavericks by nine games in the Southwest Division.

The beauty of the Mavericks is that they just don't care about what's happening elsewhere in the division or the Western Conference, although they are surprised.
"A little bit," said Jerry Stackhouse. "You'd think that would be a battle all the way to the end, like it was last year. But really the only thing we can do is focus on us.

"We can't worry about what the Spurs are doing, because it really doesn't matter. You can be up nine games and not go into the playoffs on a high note or vice versa. You can sputter a little bit, and then hit that groove at the right time."

On January 1, the new year was unveiled, an the NBA Standings looked like this as it pertains to the two teams that this blog is obsessed with:

Dallas Mavericks 24-7
San Antonio Spurs 23-8

This Morning is February 12th, just 6 weeks later, and the two teams now look like this:

Dallas Mavericks 42-9
San Antonio Spurs 33-18

It is shocking to see the Spurs play 10-10 in a 20 game stretch, but that is exactly what has happened. They are playing so poorly, that they are no longer in the 2 or 3 seed spot, falling all the way to the 4 seed, and soon perhaps lower than that. If the playoffs started today, the Rockets and the Spurs would meet in the 1st round, with the winner playing the Mavericks in round 2.

Should they be counted out? Noooooooooooo. (In Corby voice). But, it should be noted that this is not 2 losses in a row. This is 10-10 in a 20 game stretch. They have major problems down San Antonio way.

Spurs lose in Miami; Buck Harvey looks back and wonders where it all went wrong

There the Spurs were Sunday, losing yet another game, somehow looking slow and old even against the slow and old Heat.

With the perfectly imperfect mix.

The Spurs are one defeat from equaling last year's total number of losses, and that's some drop-off for a 63-win team that has been relatively healthy. Maybe that's why so many around the league don't rule out a Spurs recovery.

Haven't they often surged after the All-Star break? Don't they still have their three stars intact?

Finley is part of this thought, too. Just last spring against Dallas in the playoffs, he averaged more than 40 minutes and played well, and he has also shined at times this season. Finley started this road trip by beating the Lakers with an improbable 30-footer, and in Orlando, he threw in 18 points in less than 23 minutes.
He changes the Spurs when he plays this way, and this is the Finley who a half-dozen teams lined up for in the summer of 2005. Then, after Mark Cuban bought out his contract, a story in an Arizona newspaper began this way: "Dear Michael Finley, please come home."

Gregg Popovich then said publicly he expected Finley to do just that. Finley and Steve Nash were friends, after all. But most thought Finley would sign with Miami, since the Heat could offer more money than either the Spurs or the Suns.

Pat Riley sure wanted him. Eager to impress Finley on his visit to Miami, the franchise placed 20 posters of Finley wearing a Heat uniform on light poles on streets next to the arena.

Then Finley surprised everyone, including the Spurs. He saw the Spurs as the better fit, and the Spurs felt blessed. With his profile as the consummate professional — at this price — how could they go wrong?

The same was said about Brent Barry. Some in the national media thought his impact would mean more than any free agent who signed that summer. Nash, going to Phoenix, would prove that inaccurate.

Few questioned the Spurs when they passed on Josh Howard in the 2003 draft, and absolutely no one saw anything in the draft pick the Spurs took then and traded to Phoenix. The Spurs scouted the world better than anyone, and they surely knew Leandro Barbosa wasn't special, right?

Interesting story about Todd Dodge and his recruiting

National Signing Day 2006 saw nearly two dozen Big Country football players sign national letters of intent. Eleven of those students decided to continue their athletic careers at Division I institutions.

This year the Big Country produced just three D-I signees.

Taylor Insall should've been the fourth.

Insall, a center, came into his senior season at Cooper High School with limited interest from Division I schools; not really surprising, considering he's a center. Even without a records search it's safe to say this is one of the very few stories in which Insall will have seen his name in the Abilene Reporter-News during his varsity career. It's the nature of the position.

Nonetheless, both the University of Texas-El Paso and the University of North Texas were after Insall, and he decided to go with the Mean Green. Insall gave UNT coach Darrell Dickey a solid verbal commitment before the season even began and held firmly to his choice, turning down an offer from UTEP.

An important note: Insall's was the only commitment North Texas received nationwide.
On Nov. 8, North Texas director of athletics Rick Villarreal announced that Dickey would not return in 2007. About a month later, Southlake Carroll's Todd Dodge was hired as his replacement - and that's where things took an ugly turn.

Insall and Cooper coach Mike Spradlin repeatedly attempted to contact Dodge to confirm the university's scholarship offer was still in place. Spradlin, after all, came to Abilene after a stint at the University of Houston, also a Division I school, and had been heavily involved with the recruiting process there. He knows how the game works.

When he and head coach Art Briles got to Houston, there were two commitments made by the previous coaching staff. Those commitments were honored.

Spradlin said another friend coaching at a Division I school in Texas honored the 13 commitments made before his arrival. It's done across the country. It's done because it is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, not everyone plays the game by those same rules.

Spradlin did finally get in touch with Dodge, only to learn that the new North Texas coach had no interest in honoring the scholarship offer made to and accepted by Insall.

No, he didn't want to talk with him.

No, he didn't want to come see him.

No, he didn't care that Insall's was the only commitment he had on his desk.


Coach, that's not right.

Tom Hicks featured in the Daily Telegraph of London

So why was he so keen to get involved? "Well, George called me in early December and said, 'Do you have any interest in England's Premier League?' Hicks explains. "And I said, 'George, I don't think so. I already own two teams; I don't think I need a third.'

"He gave me a bunch of financial numbers which sounded attractive, but then that weekend I went online for hours just reading about the football club.

"Of course I had heard of Liverpool – who hadn't? But I was fascinated with the history. No teams in the US are that old and very few are old at all. The legacy of the 115-year history, the 18 championships, the gigantic worldwide fan base, the tragedies.

"The fan side was easy. To feel the passion of a Premiership game and the noise – I've never seen anything like that. In the US we just don't have that. I found that very exciting.

"On the financial side, I've been in the sports business now for 12 years and I understand all the commercial drivers. Looking at Liverpool, what struck me, with the 67 per cent increase in domestic TV rights, was that the Premiership is soon to be on a par with the NFL.

"Increasingly the internet is going to be huge, and as I look a the next 20-25 years I find that very economically attractive. When the new stadium is built, revenues will be comparable to any NFL team but NFL teams are going for two or three times that price.

"We have to be sensitive to the great fan base – that's the asset we have to protect. But if we can keep that overwhelming support and grow the perception of Liverpool around the world, if you look at Real Madrid or Manchester United, they do that and I think Liverpool can do that, too."

Lost nugget for nerds like me

There is an uncomfortable respect between Juliet and Jack now, but Juliet still seems to be open to him... as if the request to kill Ben was a gag maybe? Jack asks Juliet what Ben said to her and she replies that he is finally going to let her go home. She reveals that she has been on the island for 3 years, 2 months, and 23 days. According to the various LOST time-lines out there, this means she arrived on 9/11/2001.

Get to Know Wade Phillips

Sean Taylor Jacks up Moorman

Mavericks song from a kid with skills


u2-horn said...

firsty first

Brad C said...

Is the Mavericks dominance becoming so routine that they are now relegated to "in other news..." status on the blog? It should be "Dallas Mavericks continue to blow the doors off teams good and bad with reckless abandon while the other "supposed" top teams in the West stumble. Oh yeah, the Mavs just posted the best record in their history before the All-Star break and can add to it. Oh yeah, Dirk is an MVP candidate. Oh yeah, Josh Howard is an All-Star now... AND IN OTHER NEWS... The Stars blah blah.." Am I the only one who feels overrun with Ticketstock reminiscing and Wade Phillips talk ad-infinitum, while my brain is all-Mavs all-the-time right now? Screw me I guess.

Brad said...

Turco/Smith is definitely the primary area of concern right now. That game was NOT entertaining yesterday for me. That was embarrassing, and I am extremely concerened.

What's more concerning is that the Stars have points in 9 of their last 11 games and have stayed in 6th place, not moving any further away from 9th place than they were.

The Mavs fans should treat this(phili game) like the Mavs do: Just a necessary business trip to eventually get where they want to go. There's no sense in getting all jacked up by the Mavs winning streaks, their seeding, Josh Howard i nthe All-Star game, or any of it. Next time they play the Suns we'll get jacked up. When April comes we'll get jacked up and ready to go.

I watch every second of every game and enjoy it. The Mavs are greatness, and they are the most interesting team in town that should get the most attention. Not teams with guys named "Wade" on them now....

caknuck said...

Brad: Even ESPN is jaded to the Mavs' greatness. Every night after a Mavs win, I check, and rarely do they mention the Mavs notching up the bedpost on the front page... unless it's against the Lakers or Heat. Even beating a Top 5-rated team and in-state rival like the Rockets gets relegated to the NBA section.

And Bentley Green won't get any props from me until he covers Lazer's "MFFL".

Buck's a critic said...

even if you don't like hiring Garrett before the HC... and even if you don't like the hiring of Phillips...

you have to like it better than what's going on in San Diego.