Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Turris Heating Up On Eve Of Playoffs


Not many people were talking about it, but Kyle Turris was going through one hell of a slump recently, and you can be sure Senators management were getting a little uptight watching their prized second-line centre they made that big deal for go pointless in six straight games during a vitally important stretch.

From March 10 to March 23, Turris came up blank against division rivals Montreal in 3 separate games, as well as once each against Buffalo, Toronto and New Jersey. The Senators record during that time was 1-3-2. In fact, Ottawa came perilously close to losing control of their playoff position before they ran off 4 straight wins to clinch this past weekend against that old punching bag they call the New York Islanders.

Not surprisingly, the wins started coming when Turris turned around his game (or started getting puck luck). In the four most recent games (before Tuesday night against Carolina) Turris had 8 points, including a four-pointer against the Islanders when he skated with Milan Michalek because Jason Spezza was racing back home in time to see his new baby and Daniel Alfredsson was out with the flu.

Yet consistency still seems to elude Turris. The 6-game pointless streak was not even his worst of the season. He had a brutal 7-gamer back in early February which was the biggest chunk of a 1-point-in-11 game stretch where the kid couldn’t buy a goal for 10 of them. We won’t count the 6-game pointless streak he started the season off with in Phoenix before getting moved to Ottawa. Turris had missed training camp and the first two months while demanding a trade out of Dave Tippett’s Fort Knox regime and when he showed up in Ottawa, all anyone could say privately was that he needed a few hamburgers to get that wiry frame of his out of adolescence.

The Senators paid a very steep price for Turris, but in hindsight, and with the shock long since faded, it seems like a smart tactical move by GM Bryan Murray. When it was clear Mika Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa weren’t ready for the role, Murray addressed the team’s biggest need and stayed young and cheap in the process. David Rundblad may turn out to be a better player than Turris in the long run (something I still expect to happen) but Turris might be a better fit for this team for at least the next 3-4 years. And in NHL hockey, 3-4 years is an eternity. I will have posted about 20 more times on this blog by then.

Hell, Turris even has the chance to be the kingmaker as soon as the first-round. That sounds a little hyperbolic, but Boston (assuming the matchup) will be throwing everything they have against both Spezza and Erik Karlsson on the backend. Those are Ottawa’s two pillars and both will be hacked, whacked and hounded by the Bruins all over the ice (and even in their dreams, with Brad Marchand wearing a red and green Freddy Kreuger sweater and spouting off corny one-liners).

Now, granted, the Bruins have so much depth that they can send an equally effective checking line out against Turris and linemate Alfredsson, (lets not forget about Chris Kelly) but over a seven game span, Turris will find life at least a little easier than Spezza.

Some will say Turris doesn’t yet have the size to grind through a playoff series where referees basically stop giving a s**t that you’re being hooked through the neutral zone or that you keep taking punches to the face in goalmouth scrums (Marchand again). The first few games of the series will see some calls made but it always, always lets up. Turris, who experienced the NHL playoffs for the first time last season where he impressed with 3 points in 4 games, will find the Bruins a tad more physical than the Detroit Red Wings of 2011.

His 4 point night playing on a line with Milan Michalek may also give coach Paul MacLean a little trick he can use at home or a little more carefully on the road when the Bruins have last change. If Spezza isn’t able to get going against Boston in the early going, MacLean can pull the switcheroo with the centres and put Spezza with Alfredsson, a combo that’s also worked in the past. At the very least, MacLean has more options with Turris playing well.

You can bet Murray and MacLean are really crossing their fingers that this recent offensive surge by Turris is much more than just a reflexive curve in a season full of hot and cold moments. Turris has a real chance to make a difference with the unbelievable skill he has, especially when every opponent will be preoccupied with Karlsson skating through the middle and zipping a no-look bullet to Spezza.

If Turris can find just one month of consistency, the Senators would at least have a chance at a major upset in the first round. Let’s see what happens.

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