Panzeri: Beyond the Beantown beatdown, hope

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray was in a better mood before Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins than he was after it.

Panzeri: Beyond the Beantown beatdown, hope
Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller punches and knocks the helmet off of Ottawa Senators center Zack Smith as they fight in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. The Bruins won 7-2. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON — Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray was in a better mood before Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins than he was after it.

It was an opportunity missed — by a wide margin.

The Senators went into the day with a chance of achieving their stated goal: be in a playoff spot at the Olympic break.

And had they defeated the Bruins, they would have been in, too, with the Detroit Red Wings losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

But the Senators didn’t even get a sniff, with the Bruins embarrassing them 7-2. They’ve now lost 11 of the 12 afternoon games they’ve played this season (one in overtime, one in a shootout), a dismal record that could in the end up costing them a playoff spot.

There was some consolation for Murray, however, in that his team is still in the race. That’s a reason to smile.

“I think the way we started — we knew it would be uphill — but the guys have really responded, there’s no question,” he said.

“Quite a number of them now are playing the way we thought they would be able to play.

“This has been a different stretch with Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and then Boston — these are tough teams to play against, so getting points and staying in (the race) has been I think a real good achievement.”

Now Murray will turn his attention to strengthening the team for the final 23 games.

At the beginning of the season, he thought he might have to make a change on defence. Other than Erik Karlsson, there was no one who could consistently move the puck out of the zone, and that was resulting in all sorts of turnovers.

But Cody Ceci has been able to do that and has provided a complement to the team’s defensive defencemen.

That was a pleasant surprise for Murray, because he hadn’t planned on bringing Ceci up. When the organization’s brain trust watched him last season in junior hockey, they thought he’d be a two-year project. Which is why Murray signed Joe Corvo as insurance.

But Ceci took a bigger step than they expected.

“I think the second half last year, he got on a contending team (Owen Sound), and I think that helped the overall motivation to get better, and I know Luke (Richardson) and his staff really did a good job in Binghamton, in getting him some games down there and feeling good about himself,” said Murray

“I don’t think Cody ever lacked confidence. He just didn’t have all the technical parts, defensively, in particular.

“But he’s been a fast study, let’s put it that way,” Murray added. “He’s come up and he’s been a guy the coaches can put on the ice in any situation and he’s handled it.”

So what Murray will be looking for is another forward with some offensive ability who plays hard and with determination all the time.

But who isn’t? And the asking prices are high. In the conversations Murray’s had with other general managers, they’ve been asking for players Murray doesn’t want to move.

“It seems to me that everybody is looking for one particular or two particular players,” he said. “I think there will be some trades. I didn’t know if there would be earlier, but I think there will be a few.

“But it’s going to take the one or two moves that will be the catalyst to start the others.

“We’re not afraid to pay the right price for the right guy, and I’d like to give our guys the best chance possible, but I can’t overpay,” he added. “The future of this club is — it’s a fairly young group, overall, and we want to be smart about it.”

But in the real world, you can’t add with subtracting, and Murray knows that.

“We know we have to pay something if we’re going to do anything, and we can do that,” he said. “But it has to be something that we feel optimistic going forward that this player we bring in is going to help us in the last 20 games or whatever.”

Coach Paul MacLean was understandably dismayed by Saturday’s loss.

He would have preferred to keep playing instead of having to take a break, but having played for Canada in the Olympics (1980), he’s knows what a great experience it is for players, and he would never think of denying anyone the chance.

But he’ll be anxious to get back. The team is close, he said, and with a lot of work still to do.

“After we got through October and November, and since December, we’ve been a very consistent team,” he said. “We’ve been working to get better and better, and when we come back from the break, no matter what, we’re still in the hunt, and I still believe that after 82 games we’re going to like where we are.

“So we just have to get some rest like everyone else. But when we come back, we have to have a better commitment to how our team has to play, and a better commitment to do things right on a nightly basis, and be ready to play — no matter what time the game is.”

Tags:

What do you think? Leave a comment