|Senators' scorers need to start doing their thing|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 29 May 2007 21:37|
Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson: consider yourselves on notice. If things don't pick up Wednesday in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, Ottawa's top trio could be in for some big changes.
A breakup almost happened in the opener, but Murray avoided making a panic move.
The unit that combined for 23 goals and 58 points through the first three rounds of the playoffs, managed only two assists against Anaheim's line of Rob Niedermayer, Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen in the Ducks' 3-2 win Monday night.
The Ducks' checkers were bolstered by the defense pairing of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger - both past Norris Trophy winners, and finalists this year. Ottawa's trio recorded five shots, while allowing 12 to the Ducks' forwards - including Moen's winning goal scored with 2:51 remaining.
``They'll have to be able to overcome a little,'' Murray said Tuesday during the first off day of the best-of-seven series. ``I decided to stick with them. We recognized Niedermayer's a good skater, that Pahlsson is a real strong center-ice man, very physical kind of player. Our guys will have to see if they can (play) or not. Our guys have to find a way to get some points against that particular line.
``I've got to allow them at least some time to have that challenge.''
He gave the whole team a challenge Tuesday morning before practice, urging them to pick up their play, stop trying to make flashy cross-ice and drop passes, and act like the club that tore through Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo in five games each.
``We didn't get much done,'' Heatley said. ``We made some bad decisions. They're a team that really sits back and waits for mistakes. Especially our line, I thought we played right into their hands.
``We've just got to get back to what was making us successful, playing a simple game.''
The Senators have responded with a win each time they fell, but they are behind in a series for the first time.
Whether it was the eight-day layoff or first-time jitters, the Senators looked nothing like the team that dominated Presidents' Trophy-winning Buffalo to get here. Ottawa recorded only 20 shots, four below its lowest postseason total.
Anaheim's physical play also seemed to wear down the Senators. With all that, Ottawa still held a one-goal lead after two periods.
``They hit but I don't think they're overly physical,'' Heatley said. ``I don't think they're more physical than anybody we've seen this season. We're a team that can handle that and also play physical.''
Their lead could've been greater, but the Senators failed to cash in a lengthy 5-on-3 power play in the second period.
Still, the Senators didn't quibble much over that blown chance since they converted 2-of-7 power-play chances, raising their road mark to 12-for-39.
``If we scored on that 5-on-3, we'd probably end up winning the game,'' Heatley said. ``We're just going to have to keep doing the same things on our power play, moving the puck well and getting some good quality chances.''
The Ducks have to figure out how to cut down on their penchant for penalties so the Senators' power play stays off the ice.
If the Western Conference champs don't stop high-sticking, roughing, tripping, slashing, hooking and holding, the constant march to the penalty box could turn into the most-watched springtime Southern California parade this side of Disneyland.
Niedermayer, the Ducks' captain and the only Cup winner on the team, went off for high-sticking just 53 seconds into Game 1. He was whistled again with 6:52 left for hooking.
Not quite the veteran leadership the team expects to see.
``I guess (I should) try to be a good example, which maybe I wasn't,'' he said with a laugh.
Pronger, in the finals for the second straight year, was called for stick-holding with 44 seconds remaining, leaving Jean-Sebastien Giguere lunging and diving to prevent the Senators from scoring the tying goal.
Anaheim was the NHL's most-penalized team during the regular season and carried bad habits into the playoffs. The Ducks average 18.9 penalty minutes per game, the fourth-highest total in the postseason and the worst among teams to get out of the first round.
``It's like your kids. Sometimes there's a thousand different ways to tell them, but it's a lot easier to say it than to live it,'' Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
As difficult as the Ducks have made things with unnecessary penalties, they've been able to survive.
They've been whistled for 133 penalties - 36 more than Ottawa - in 17 playoff games. When Anaheim lost 5-0 in Game 3 of the West finals against Detroit, things got out of hand when Rob Niedermayer and Pronger sandwiched Tomas Holmstrom with high hits against the boards.
Niedermayer was ejected and Pronger received a one-game suspension, but the Ducks have won four straight since the hit. The Ducks take pride in their physicality, it just has to stay in check - so to speak.
In the first two rounds against Minnesota and Vancouver, both five-game victories, the Ducks killed 53 of 56 power plays even though they gave the Wild and Canucks at least five chances in eight of 10 games. Detroit and Ottawa have exploited the taxed penalty killers, cashing in on 11 of 47 advantages.
``At some point we've got to look in the mirror and see what we do wrong,'' Giguere said. ``It's not because we can't do it. We can do it. We can control our stick. We can move our feet. We can be disciplined after the whistle. Those are all things that will hurt you at the end of the day.
``You can't just keep giving teams like that a chance to score like that.''