Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the story of the playoffs after helping the Mighty Ducks to a sweep of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round and a 3-1 series lead over the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference semifinals.
“But our guy’s played as well, if not better,” said Claude Lemieux, one of several Stars who came to the defense Friday of Marty Turco.
Turco, who set a modern-day NHL record with a 1.72 goals-against average during the regular season, has compiled a 1.77 GAA and .926 save percentage in the playoffs. Giguere’s numbers: 1.27 GAA, .960 save percentage.
“He’s played great,” Star Coach Dave Tippett said of Giguere, “but our guy has played just as well. For our guys, that’s something because it makes the goaltending a non-issue. The rest of it just has to fall into place.”
Said Turco, regarding adjustments he might need to make before Game 5 today in the American Airlines Center: “Maybe put up a horseshoe or two. Otherwise, nothing. I ain’t gonna change a thing. I’m still trying to give my team a chance to win every night. But right now, somebody is getting the better of us.”
As brilliantly as Giguere has played, the defenders in front of him deserve a share of the credit too, according to defenseman Derian Hatcher.
“There are definitely places to shoot,” the Star captain said, “but what I think people don’t realize is that the game they play doesn’t give you time to shoot, and that’s half the battle.
“If you give players time to shoot, they’re going to find that spot that only the puck can fit in. But [the Ducks] play tight. They let you shoot from the outside and they try to take away everything that’s close. It’s definitely beneficial to the goalie.”
The effectiveness of the Mighty Duck power play is up for debate, as a cantankerous Coach Mike Babcock made clear.
Yes, the Ducks did get the game-winner on a power play in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the Stars. And, yes, they failed to tie the score with a late power play in Monday’s 2-1 loss.
But as far as the Ducks’ penalty killing goes, there is no need for discussion.
The Ducks have allowed four goals in 28 power plays during the playoffs. The Stars, who had eight power-play goals in beating Edmonton in the first round, have only two in 12 opportunities in the four games against the Ducks.
“You look at every playoff series, and special teams are winning games,” Duck center Jason Krog said. “Penalty killing can be a momentum builder.”
It also gives players ice time. In two seasons, Duck right wing Patric Kjellberg has played everywhere from the first line to his current spot on the fourth line. His biggest contribution, though, is killing penalties.
Kjellberg played 6 minutes 15 seconds on Wednesday, and all but 1:39 was spent killing penalties.
“Everyone on this team has a role,” Kjellberg said. “What has made this team so good is we all have accepted our roles.”
Said Babcock: “The thing about special teams is everything you get from your power play is a plus, but if your penalty killing lets in a goal, you’re down one.”
Bill Guerin, who gingerly returned to the lineup for Game 3 after being sidelined for two months because of a thigh injury, has been passive and ineffective. The Stars’ top winger played only 5 minutes 20 seconds in Game 4.
“We challenged him to push himself as hard as he could in practice today, push himself to areas that maybe he hasn’t been in yet, and he responded,” Tippett said. “We thought he was better in practice.”
The Stars earned home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs by compiling the best record in the West during the regular season, but they haven’t taken advantage of it.
After losing only seven times at home during the regular season, twice in overtime, they’re 2-3 in the playoffs.
“Home-ice advantage is about Game 7,” Tippett said. “If you’re going to play a Game 7, where do you want to play? I’d much rather play at home.”
Jerry Crowe reported from Dallas, Chris Foster from Anaheim.