Turco makes most of second chance in net

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Turco makes most of second chance in net

ANAHEIM, CA Marty Turco badly wanted to atone for his abysmal performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he didnt want his NHL career to potentially end on the sour note of being pulled four minutes into a game.

So the 36-year-old bided his time and worked diligently in practice, and then finally got his chance once again when Tim Thomas was given a day of rest on the second night of back-to-back games against Pacific Division foes. For a player with as much professional pride and big experience as Turco, there had to be little doubt hed be as ready as his still-considerable skills would allow.

After watching Turco on Sunday afternoon against the Ducks, his skills will still allow quite a bit.

Turco finished with 29 saves and survived a firestorm at the end of the third period to hold on for a 3-2 victory over the Ducks at the Honda Center. It was the former Dallas and Chicago netminders first NHL victory since Feb. 11 of last season, and he was giving it up to the defenders around his net.

When I first got here this team wasnt firing on all cylinders. They werent playing like they can and imposing their will. Team defense is what makes this team tick and the team defense comes with an attitude, said Turco. Its a real treat to have these guys out there and not just the defense. With five seconds left you have one of the strongest men in the world holding the puck in the corner. Its a treat to have that working on your side.

With that defense forming a wall in front of him, Turco was able to withstand some of Anaheims inevitable attack once they got down by two goals in the second period. Teemu Selanne was able to sneak a tipped puck by him in the second, but Turco looked quick and confident with his glove hand snaring a Bobby Ryan wrister in the slot here or a Francois Beauchemin point blast there.

More important than the personal victory for Turco or the fact the Bruins took two out of three on their Pacific Division road trip, the Boston backups win means a couple of different things: Bruins opponents will be seeing much more of the School Bus yellow goaltending pads Turco had custom-made and Tim Thomas will be getting ample rest down the stretch.

This is only the first full game with us and he didnt play much before. Hes practiced hard for the last few weeks . . . really hard. Hes put in the time, said Claude Julien. It was nice to see him get rewarded with a solid effort.

Turco has redeemed himself for monumentally stubbing his toe against the Lightning and even managed to hold onto his stick for 60 minutes against an NHL opponent with some legitimate weapons. Now the aged goaltender will go about doing his job for the rest of the regular season knowing that there is no playoff rainbow at the end of the journey for him.

This is a tight-knit group that makes you feel comfortable. You can see why they win given the way they handle themselves in the locker room, said Turco. Sure its a little disappointing that I wont be in the playoffs, but Ill take the bittersweet opportunity after losing during the playoffs in Europe. Right now Im back in the NHL and its a special place to be. Im thinking about that more than anything else.

With his victorious performance against the Ducks, Turco announced to everyone hes back in the NHL and ready to go.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.