| Brendan Morrison didn't want to go there. |
And we're not talking about the return trip to Dallas for Saturday's now necessary Game 6 against the Stars. Although, it probably goes without saying he had no interest in going there, either.
No, the one place Morrison was desperately trying to stay away from as he pushed the pedals of the stationary bike following Thursday's 1-0 overtime loss was that deep, dark recess of the brain where frustration and doubt both lurk. Like so many of the other offensive-minded players in this series, the Canuck forward has basically been suffocated so far. And with just one assist to show for his efforts through five games and 21 periods of hockey - in a series where goals have become far more precious than gold - players like Morrison are left to wonder what more they can do to put a puck in the net.
"It's a battle. It's a mental battle. But at the end of the day, the team is winning and that's all that matters," says the 31-year-old centre whose team still holds a 3-2 series edge. "That being said, myself included, we've got to find something to help the team a bit. When you're not scoring, you've got to make sure you're solid defensively and you're doing other things to help the team. But it's tight out there and there's not a whole lot of room."
Morrison was one of the Canucks' best and most-consistent scorers in the second half of the season and much of that success came from playing alongside fellow speedster Matt Cooke. But it seems that when Cooke was forced out of this series with a groin injury in Game 1, he took a part of Brendan Morrison with him. Cooke had assisted on Morrison's last two goals and five of his last seven, and together, the two had developed some chemistry that made them legitimate scoring threats whenever they hit the ice. But Morrison has now gone nine games without a goal and has just one in his last 15. And that's putting his mental toughness to the test knowing he has to stay positive and believing he can be the difference-maker the next time he steps on the ice.
In Cooke's absence, Morrison has found himself centering a line with Jan Bulis and rookie Jannik Hansen which has had its moments in the series. All three can fly, but against an opponent like Dallas, they've rarely been able to find a runway to get off the ground. That line combined for a big goal in Game 3 when a Morrison face-off win led to a Hansen chance and Bulis was there to tuck home the rebound. The Canucks have to find a way to do more of that if they want this series to end on Saturday.
"We have to do a better job of getting more pucks to the net. At times, we're having a lot of zone time but we're refusing to get pucks to the net. I think that's one thing we can do better," says Morrison. "But we're not going to hang our heads. We have to go to Dallas and win a game. It's as simple as that."
Well, nothing is simple in this series, but the fact remains the Canucks are in the driver's seat. But in the first five games against the Stars it's been like driving over the Port Mann Bridge in rush hour. But the traffic analogy might just be a good one for Brendan Morrison if he's going to solve his former University of Michigan teammate Marty Turco who's given up just three regulation time goals in the past four games.
"We've had some pretty quality chances. I think we can do a better job of getting so-called ugly goals because we're just not doing that right now," says Morrison. "We talk about it, but we're refusing to do it."
One area Morrison and the Canucks have to find a way to score is on the power play where they are just 1 for 25 in the playoffs and scoreless in their last 20 attempts. The Canucks got a first-hand glimpse on Thursday night the difference one power play goal can make. And because of it, they're on their way back to Dallas for Game 6 on Saturday night.
It was a Saturday three years ago, the last time the Canucks played the sixth game of a playoff series. They played that one on the road, too, at the Saddledome in Calgary. Brendan Morrison ended what, until last week, had been the longest game in Canuck history when he scored in triple-overtime. You have to know Morrison is hoping history repeats itself -- and you get the feeling he's ready to play the role of hero once again.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org