Notebook: Senators get the ‘jitters’ out

The “glass is half full” Ottawa Senators fan might see some hope ahead, given the loose pucks were there for the taking during Tuesday’s 4-1 series opening loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

PITTSBURGH — The “glass is half full” Ottawa Senators fan might see some hope ahead, given the loose pucks were there for the taking during Tuesday’s 4-1 series opening loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

They might also remember that the Senators’ physical play increased as the first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens went on.

The “glass is half empty” fan, however, is left to wonder whether the Senators blew a golden opportunity Tuesday against a goaltender who played the role of a juggler early on and against a Penguins team that lost its focus and edge in the middle of the game.

Naturally, Senators players were in the positive camp.

“We know we can play with them,” said defenceman Marc Methot. “Maybe we came out a little bit tight, but now that we’ve got the jitters out, we’re a confident group.”

One thing is for sure: The Senators have no hope of winning the series unless they’re more desperate around both nets — in even strength and special teams situations.

Three of the Penguins’ four goals Tuesday came because of their determination in close, and the other came on a short-handed 2-on-1 break with the Senators pressing while down 3-1.

The Senators also recognize that their only goal was the result of Colin Greening jabbing, poking and prying for the puck behind Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

“Most goals, I don’t know what the percentage is, are scored 5-10 feet from the net, and you have to have that extra effort to battle for it,” said Greening. “For us to be successful, we have to have that extra urgency around net. There were a couple of pucks there that bounced off (Vokoun) and rebounds that we felt we could have had.”

On the official scoresheet, the Penguins out-hit the Senators 40-26. The Senators need to turn that around to slow down the Penguins’ talent.

“You’ve got to play physical on all their skilled guys,” said Chris Neil. “They’re a tough team to finish checks on, because they have a lot of skilled guys, but it doesn’t always have to be a big hit. Just rubbing them out, making them hard minutes for them to play.”

Neil knows the Senators didn’t work hard enough in Game 1.

“They wanted it more than we did,” he said.

Now, back to the glass half empty group. The Penguins insist they, too, can play much better than what they showcased in Game 1. If they raise their game another notch, can the Senators keep pace?

KEEPING EXPECTATIONS IN CHECK

Senators coach Paul MacLean concedes that the Erik Karlsson who returned early following Achilles surgery isn’t on a par with the player who was on top of the league before Matt Cooke sliced the back of his leg.

“I don’t think he’s close to what he was before he got injured,” said MacLean. “He was a dominant, dominant player, possibly the best player in the league at the time of his injury. Our expectation wasn’t that (his play) would be at that level. Our expectation is that Erik would make us a better team because of his abilities to move the puck and to help us on the power play, to quarterback that. Our expectation is not that he’s the Norris Trophy-winning Erik Karlsson.”

While Karlsson has had his moments offensively in the playoffs, he has been vulnerable defensively, at times experiencing difficulty moving laterally in his own end. He got burned by the Penguins’ speed a couple of times in Game 1.

GRYBA QUESTIONABLE FOR GAME 2

Senators coach Paul MacLean says the club is “not ruling out” a return for defenceman Eric Gryba Friday. Gryba suffered an upper body injury — possibly a concussion — when he ran into a brick wall named Brooks Orpik late in the second period of Game 1. If Gryba can’t play, either Andre Benoit or Mike Lundin will take his place. Patrick Wiercioch is unavailable due to the lower body injury he suffered during the Montreal series.

Tags: ,

What do you think? Leave a comment