'It's not rocket science'

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

Jason Spezza seems to have a pretty good handle on what happened to the Senators during the first two games of the Stanley Cup final.

"Well, the first night, we probably tried to do too much," said the centre.

"The second night, we tried to do too little."

The too much was trying to stickhandle by three guys lined up across the blue line.

The too little was just throwing the puck in and not doing enough to get it back.

The Senators will try to find their happy place tonight, somewhere between doing too much and trying to do too little in the first Stanley Cup final game in this city in 80 years.

Where they want to be is pretty clear.

How they're going to get there?

Not so much.

While both games have been decided by a goal, so far the Senators have come up short in just about every category except the volume of words spent trying to explain how their top line has run into a wall.

The matchup the Senators will try to avoid will be Ducks centre Samuel Pahlsson against Senators centre Jason Spezza.

Not only has that matchup been bad for the Senators in that the Spezza line has not generated anything 5-on-5, it has been victimized offensively with the Pahlsson line scoring the winning goal in the first two games of the final.

Senators coach Bryan Murray has the last change tonight, but there's nobody in the Senators camp who thinks Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle won't win the matchups battle.

Carlyle will get the people he wants on the ice, when he wants them on the ice.

The Ducks will remain committed to playing the matchup game even if it means giving up some rhythm and risking another too-many-men-on-the ice penalty (the Ducks are second in the post-season with three bench minors.)

"Randy has a game plan for us and he's going to stick to it," said Ducks centre Andy McDonald. "He's done it all year long. It makes it a little harder to get momentum, but we've become accustomed to it. It's not going to change."

The key to winning the matchups on the road is puck possession. If the Ducks continue to win faceoffs at the clip they have (30-21 in Game 2), they will be able to hold the puck or move it to a place that will enable them to change at least a couple of players on a line, if not all of them.

The players Carlyle wants on the ice will storm over the boards.

So, what can the Senators do about the matchups?

SHUFFLED BIG LINE

Murray tried shuffling his big line in Game 2, dropping Daniel Alfredsson to a line with Mike Fisher and Peter Schaefer and elevating Chris Neil to right wing with Spezza and Dany Heatley for a few shifts.

Murray might need to think about taking it another step and moving Spezza out from between Heatley and Alfredsson now and then tonight.

It's like a shell game.

That move could force Carlyle into a decision. Is it a better matchup to play the Pahlsson line against Spezza and whoever he winds up with or against a line of, say, Mike Fisher between Heatley and Alfredsson or Chris Kelly or Dean McAmmond in that centre spot?

All of those have been combinations Murray has used during the course of this season.

If Carlyle opts to keep Pahlsson against, say, Fisher with Alfredsson and Heatley, then Spezza might have a chance of winning a matchup against McDonald.

Not too long ago, people wondered if Heatley could play without Spezza. When Spezza was out with a knee injury in December and January, Heatley laid to rest the idea he wouldn't be productive without Spezza.

Of course, Murray wouldn't have to do this kind of juggling if his big line was able to compete against the Pahlsson line.

The reality is it hasn't, so something must be done.

That's not panic or desperation.

It's coaching, trying to put your players in positions where they can best help your team, where they can best play to their strengths and not have their weaknesses exposed.

"It's not rocket science," said Heatley.

"It's hockey. Eventually we are going to have to play against that line and just find ways to get things done. It's time to step up."

Some line juggling might help them find that place between doing too much and trying to do too little.


Videos

Photos