It's about the mettle, not the medal

DALLAS -- Brenden Morrow was bulldozing his way to the front of the net as often as he could Tuesday, and that's a piece of real estate the Stars need him to own in the final six weeks of the season.

He was banging, prodding, hitting and smashing his way to the crease area, hoping to deflect a puck into the net or screen the goaltender. It was the Morrow the Stars saw in the two weeks leading up to the Olympics. And it was the Morrow fans saw become an integral part of Canada's gold-medal team.

"Brenden's game is pretty simple," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "He's very strong on the forecheck, he's great with his net presence. He'll block a shot. He did all those great leadership things for Canada."

Brenden Morrow

Brenden Morrow

#10 LW
Dallas Stars

2010 STATS

  • GM56
  • G14

  • A19

  • PTS33

  • +/-0

  • PIM59

On Tuesday, the Olympic flame was not glowing. The raucous Canadian crowd was gone, replaced by fans at American Airlines Center who had little to cheer about in an ugly 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Stars didn't do enough on defensive coverage, didn't get the stand-on-the-head performance from goalie Marty Turco and didn't take advantage of their scoring chances.

Barring a trade from general manager Joe Nieuwendyk before Wednesday's 2 p.m. (CT) deadline, the players who skated Tuesday are the ones who will attempt to make a postseason push.

Morrow believes they can do it. But they'll need to play much better than they did Tuesday.

It starts with the captain, who admits that maybe the hubbub about trying to make Team Canada and then the anticipation of playing in the Olympics served as a distraction during the first half of the season.

"Maybe it was," said Morrow, who's had long stretches of limited production this season. "That's a weight off your shoulders, I guess, and you can move on. I've got a clearer picture of what's needed and how I need to play and what I have success with and I'm expecting to do those same things here."

Morrow showed steady improvement during the two-week Olympic tournament, getting more important minutes and complementing linemates Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

"I feel great," Morrow said. "I feel confident. I didn't know what to expect going into [the Olympics]. I was willing to do whatever was expected or needed. As the tournament went on I felt more and more confident. I hope to bring that back here and help this team get in the playoffs and set ourselves up for a good run."

Morrow isn't the only component to a postseason run. Turco must perform at a high level, something he did in the two weeks before the Olympic break. He needs to make enough big saves to give his team a chance to win. That didn't happen Tuesday, though the play in front of him wasn't good.

The Stars also need a balanced forward group with four lines working all the time. And they need what has been an inconsistent defensive group to provide constant and reliable support.

It has to be a team effort. And Morrow is the leader of that team.

After scoring 10 points in the first nine games, he has just two goals in his last 29 games. He missed five games because of injury, including four straight in January with a strained oblique muscle. When Morrow returned from that injury, he looked like his old self. He was attacking the net with purpose and firing up his teammates in the process.

Morrow says he's on a Vancouver high and wants that to continue. There were more television cameras than normal at Tuesday's morning skate, all focusing on the gold medalist. He agreed to show his medal, but not in the dressing room out of "respect for the other guys."

You could tell Morrow was proud, but ready to move on. He participated in a quick ceremony before Tuesday's game, when the Stars honored the medalists for both teams. But now it's over. His focus is on helping his team get critical points down the stretch. That's just the kind of attitude you'd expect from a leader.

The Stars, who don't get more than one day off between games for the entire month of March, have 20 games left in the season. And 14 of those are against playoff teams, including a stretch of 12 straight that starts Saturday with Olympic hero Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Stars will need a complete team effort if they are to make the postseason.

They'll need their captain -- the one who was as good as gold at the Olympics -- to lead them.

Richard Durrett covers the Stars for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.