With the news that the Blackhawks have signed Marty Turco to replace Antti Niemi, it’s time to formally look forward at what the Blackhawks have between the pipes next year. The 34-year-old netminder, who actually posted a better save percentage than Niemi last year, brings a long resume with a lot of success on it. He also brings a number of question marks, including his age.
However, considering his one-year, $1.3M price tag, there is no question that the Blackhawks got a deal.
Here’s some more information to consider about the University of Michigan product, who is regarded by many as one of the best puck-handling goalies in the game.
Numbers vs. the Central Division in 2009-10
- vs. Detroit: 2 games, 1-1-0, 7 goals against (3.50 GAA), .892 save percentage (58/65)
- vs. Nashville: 2 games, 1-0-1, 2 goals against (0.96 GAA), .964 save percentage (53/55), one shutout
- vs. St. Louis: 3 games, 1-1-1, 8 goals against (3.28 GAA), .896 save percentage (69/77)
- vs. Columbus: 3 games, 0-3-0, 6 goals against (2.02 GAA), .935 save percentage (87/93)
Last year, the Dallas Stars averaged 2.80 goals per game, which tied for 11th in the league last year. The Blackhawks scored 3.24 goals per game, third in the NHL.
The Stars also ranked 19th in the NHL, allowing 31.2 shots on goal per game. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks allowed an NHL-best 25.1 shots per game. The Hawks will bring back their top four defensemen, and could have an improved third pair with a youngster like Shawn Lalonde involved. Given the salary cap flexibility afforded the team with Turco’s deal, the Hawks could look to add a veteran to skate on the third pair, or bring back Jordan Hendry.
Dallas had the 27th-ranked penalty kill unit in the NHL last season, killing only 77.4 percent of opponents advantages. Turco will now be behind the fifth-ranked PK unit in the league in Chicago, which killed 85.0 percent.
Against other key teams in the Western Conference, Turco was also very good last year.
- vs. Vancouver: 3 games, 1-1-1, 1.96 GAA, .929 save percentage
- vs. San Jose: 5 games, 3-2-0, 2.14 GAA, .935 save percentage
When you factor into the equation that Niemi’s biggest weakness was playing the puck, Turco could be an improvement for the Blackhawks offense as well. Looking at the skilled players on the Hawks’ blue line and emphasis on getting the puck up the ice with defensemen, the Hawks could become more lethal leaving their zone with a skilled puck-handling goalie like Turco.
Turco will benefit from have elite players surrounding him on Chicago’s roster this year, a top-to-bottom improvement over the Dallas team he was part of last year even considering the Blackhawks’ departures. He has played well against the crucial opponents for the Blackhawks, and has an opportunity with a one-year contract to play for a defending champion. If win-loss numbers and goals against averages are considered relative to the performance of the skaters in front of him in Dallas, Turco could be more than adequate as a replacement for Niemi in Chicago for half the price.