Senators Notebook: Selfish penalties take heavy toll
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OTTAWA -- The reason the Ottawa Senators are peering into a 0-3 abyss in their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal is simple: Not enough good players, not enough hale players playing well, smart or disciplined.
At least, that's the vantage point from where coach/general manager Bryan Murray sat yesterday.
"Some guys play far too much ... take penalties. Can't take the selfish penalties that we took [Monday in Game 3] and expect to win," Murray said after what could be Ottawa's final practice of an up-and-down season, one that veered violently from a 15-2 start to a 14-24-4 finish heading into a brink-of-elimination Game 4 tonight at Scotiabank Place. "Other guys can't get on the ice enough and can't contribute. We've been doing that far too often, I think, all season."
Murray is the boss who fired coach John Paddock with just 18 games left in the regular season and Ottawa already reeling. He calls the personnel shots.
"Punch a guy [as Chris Neil did]. Grab a stick out of a guy's hands [as former Penguins Shean Donovan did] ... silly things," Murray said. "Maybe it's that they're not keeping up. Maybe it's that they're frustrated and taking it out on the guy. It's getting old. It's hard to defend when they don't do the right thing.
"We're short now. We've got half of our core group not playing now," he continued, referring to injured centers Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly plus captain Daniel Alfredsson, who returned to play Monday, although he still isn't fully healthy. "At this time of year, you've got to play your best players. That's where we are in hockey today. That's why we'd like to get good players and pay them too much money to keep them."
Alfredsson, who skipped practice yesterday but expects to play tonight despite his unspecified head, back and knee injuries that might well include an MCL tear, noted a few key differences between Ottawa's five-game victory against the Penguins in the 2007 first round and the Penguins' three-game winning streak against Ottawa this spring.
"I think they're a little bit deeper, a little bit more experienced," Alfredsson began. "And I don't think we're as good a team as we were last year. So far."
Jason Spezza added: "Last year in the series, we scored the big goals. This year, they're scoring the big goals. Last year, we might have played this series again later and it could have been different. This year, we could play this series again and we could win."
Murray pointed to the Penguins' centers as another explanation for their series domination thus far.
"Let's not kid ourselves: Sidney Crosby, [Jordan] Staal and [Evgeni] Malkin are pretty good players," Murray said. "Everybody regards them as high high-end players.
"You have to be careful when you play against their speed. Their finesse is second to very few people in this league right now.
"Sometimes, the better player beats you."
"The guys, they have a choice," Murray said. "Play hard, be competitive and treat it as a one-game-at-a-time situation, or you can not play as hard as you're supposed to. I believe they'll make the choice to play hard." ... Cory Stillman, like Alfredsson, sat out practice to rest his aching body ... Murray said he has coached a team from the brink of elimination to a series victory before: It was about the same 33-year spread as it has been since a team last rallied from an 0-3 deficit, the New York Islanders against the 1975 Penguins. Back then, Murray was coaching Rockland against Guelph in Canada's Tier II junior playoffs.
First Published April 16, 2008 12:00 am