Senators 'very average'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

The easy thing to say is they are a work in progress, these Senators, but the more accurate description is they must progress in their work.

Where have you heard that before, huh?

Despite some improved play lately, the same flaws keep cropping up -- too much individualistic play, not enough patience -- though not as often, and Senators coach Bryan Murray is starting to sound like he's about had enough.

He was sharp in his instructions at practice yesterday, addressing his team's inability to shine in tough situations when the game is on the line.

They muffed Saturday night's game against the Boston Bruins, squandering a 5-on-3 and then allowing a late power-play goal to lose 2-1.

Murray presented different scenarios in practice in preparation for tonight's game in Montreal.

"Structure," was the buzz word of the day.

When the pressure is on, a team needs to have simple, effective measures to deal with it. Players need to know they can count on their teammates, that they will be where they are expected to be. The man with the puck has to be trusted to do what his expectant teammates anticipate he will do.

"This is what's wrong with this group," said Murray. "Individually, there's some talent here, but in tough games, we don't perform because we don't draw from each other. We're not systematic enough, if that's the right word, or structured enough -- yet.

"I've been here for 102 games now and I see some of the same things happening that happened in the first little while I was here. I want that to change."

If those same things are happening, then Murray, of course, must be held responsible for that as much as the players.

He's addressing it, as evidenced in yesterday's practice.

'BETTER STRUCTURE'

"We have to have better structure," he said. "We need everybody to buy into the way we play and as I said, we're getting there, but we still have a little ways to go."

If the Senators want an example, they need look no further than the team they -- and everybody else is chasing in the Northeast Division -- the league-leading Buffalo Sabres.

They are purring along for coach Lindy Ruff, but Murray looks at that team and sees something more.

"My point here is Lindy has done a great job, but you know what? The players have decided they want to win the Stanley Cup," said Murray, "and when the players decide that, then they'll do all the other things and all the right things and they won't let their teammate off the hook if they won't do it."

Murray does see some encouraging signs here.

That "structure" is evident in the Senators' penalty killing which goes into tonight's game ranked second in the league (the Habs are third).

It works because the penalty killers know what their teammates are doing and where they are going to do it.

"They're really under control and know the structure. They play it," said Murray. "A big part of our structure (on the power play) at times is not always there. The PK guys do have it and that's why they are at 92% and our power play is at 10%."

As far as his team's status at the 10-game mark, Murray offered this assessment:

"Very average. I think we've shown signs of turning the corner as far as doing better things with the puck, but early on we weren't very good," he said.

"I think it's kind of growing in spite of the Boston game, I think we're doing more things better. We just have to do them more often. When you're 5-5 and sitting in ninth spot, you're an average team at this point."

Nowhere to go but up, right?


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