This season Modano frequently centered Brenden Morrow, a rookie who scored 14 goals, many of them gifts from number 9. "Mike makes plays where he'll pull the goaltender and both defensemen toward him," says Morrow. "All I have to do is stand in front of a wide-open net with my stick on the ice."
The Modano assist Morrow best remembers happened late in a regular-season game in which the Stars led. The Los Angeles Kings had pulled their goaltender and were pressing the attack in the Dallas zone. "Mike ended up with the puck, and Brett [Hull] broke out behind the blue line," recalls Morrow. Rather than chip the puck off the boards or try to pass to Hull through two defensemen, Modano lofted a backhander over the heads of the blueliners. Hull gloved the puck, put it on the ice and skated in for the empty-netter. "It was so creative," says Morrow. "Sometimes it's like Mike's playing a different game."
Hull came to the Stars in July 1998 after 10-plus seasons with the St. Louis Blues. As one who has carried the weight of a city's expectations, Hull feels a kinship with Modano. He has a theory on Modano's midseason U-turn, "and it's got nothing to do with his engagement, because you know what? That's none of my business.
"We won the Cup and had a good time. It was hard to get into the season. We struggled, and we struggled, and all of a sudden Mike just realized, Hey, we better get her going here so we can have fun again in the playoffs."
Modano was in high spirits after last Friday's win. Before leaving for Game 5 on Sunday, which the Stars won 4-1 to close out the series, he checked out of the Mansion. On Monday he was to move into his new house in the Highland Park area of Dallas. The move may bode ill for the Colorado Avalanche, whom the Stars will face in the conference finals, starting this week. As we have seen this season, Modano responds well to a change of scenery.