Dearth of discipline wearing Senators out

The statistics are staggering, and they’re starting to worry Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean.

Dearth of discipline wearing Senators out
Chris Neil (in white). Ottawa Senators practice at the Bell Sensplex. ( Chris Mikula / Ottawa Citizen)

The statistics are staggering, and they’re starting to worry Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean.

In seven games, his team has allowed 35, 42, 32, 50, 56, 37, and 42 shots, for an average of 42, highest in the league.

Just as bad, it has also taken 40 minor penalties, fewer only than the Philadelphia Flyers, who have taken 44.

These two trends are creating all sorts of problems, not the least of which is that the goalies are getting worn out.

That’s why Robin Lehner will start Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. He’s fresher than Craig Anderson, who has won his last two games but has faced 135 shots in his last three.

“If they’re going to be facing 45 and 50, there’s no sense in going back-to-back,” said MacLean. “You might as well give them a chance to be fresh and ready to go. Right now that’s our track record, and that’s all we have to go on.”

MacLean addressed the issue on Friday before practice. The way he sees it, the two stats are intertwined.

In Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Devils, in which the Senators took seven minor penalties, the Devils had 12 shots on their power plays.

So if those penalties are avoided, the Senators end up allowing 30 shots, which is about the league average, instead of 42.

“This is something that should be handled through the coaching staff and the players,” said MacLean. “But ultimately the players end up dealing with it and get it sorted out, so that’s the expectation.

“This is the first time that we’ve made it a real focus of the day, that this is what we have to do. So if it continues from this point forward, then it becomes a concern, not a frustration.

“The number of penalties we take certainly leads to us playing in our end too much and them getting shots at our net, and that’s never a good recipe, and there’s no chance of success if that continues to happen.”

The players get it. Or at least say they do.

It stung that after Thursday’s win, MacLean called most of the penalties “lazy” — penalties where the player reaches out with his stick, a leg, or a hand to impede an opponent.

The players don’t see themselves as lazy, but they understand the penalties don’t look good on them.

“Watching some of those penalties (from Thursday night), I think guys recognize that they do it right away,” said Bobby Ryan. “It’s early in the season and it’s a small sample size, but I think we can do a lot better and make sure we’re staying away from them.

“I’ve never thought of the Senators as a lazy team and I don’t anyone in this room would call us that as a team. They’re just mental lapses in judgment. When you make them, you know. You just kind of shake your head.

“We’ve got to stay a little more focused for 60 minutes instead of reaching the way we are.”

Defenceman Marc Methot said another byproduct of the parade to the penalty box is that the team’s penalty killers get worn out along with the goalies. That’s in addition to sidelining players who don’t kill penalties

“You notice it,” said Methot. “It’s all stops and starts, back and forth, and your legs are burning.

“So the second and third periods roll around, and you’ve already killed six penalties, it certainly takes a toll of your body.

“It’s something we have to cut out because we’re going to burn out pretty fast if we keep going at this rate.

“Some of the penalties are lazy, and we know that. We’re professionals. And the coaches of already addressed that. It’s just a matter of using our legs.”

The Senators figure to be better rested for Saturday’s game against the Oilers. Playing the Devils after a long flight back from Phoenix was difficult. Their body clocks should be getting readjusted to Eastern time.

They won’t be taking the Oilers lightly, either, even if they have only one win in eight games and look just as bad as they have for the last several years.

The talent the Oilers have assembled is still respected, even if it looks like the lost generation.

“Their talent is second to none in the league,” said Jason Spezza.

“We have to guard against not playing their style of game, and try to dictate the pace, make it hard for them.

“We don’t want to get into a run-and-gun game with them. This is a team we don’t know very well, and they’re dangerous.”

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