|Centre Jason Spezza, above, and his teammates look to become the sixth team in Ottawa Senators history to reach 100 points. |
by Todd Anderson
The Ottawa Senators have a chance to reach 100 points for the sixth time in team history tonight when they host the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place. Currently fourth in the Eastern Conference with 98 points, head coach Bryan Murray says his team has come a long way since its struggles early on in 2006-07. He admits there was a point where 100 points didn't appear to be an achievable goal.
"Whoever thought we were going to get points in this many games in a row (the Senators have earned at least one point in 11 straight games and in 20 of the last 21). No, I can't say I thought we could get to 100 points, but I thought if we could get (the early season slump) straightened out and be a little more disciplined in overall team play that we would be a lot better hockey team as a result."
The veteran NHL coach and manager enjoyed a successful debut with the Senators last season when the club tied a team record with 113 points. Despite the success, Murray wanted to steer his team in a new direction this year. His goal was to make the club better suited for playoff-style hockey.
"I believed at the start of the year we had to change our approach to the way we play here," Murray says. "I thought that we had to make some players more accountable. We had to play a more forceful game in some areas. In other words, we couldn't rely on skill only.
"I think our work ethic is better, and it has been for some time. I think the attitude of the room is such that we know it's a team. We know we have to get contributions from a lot of people. And I think that's happened."
The Senators cracked the century mark for points in a season for the first time in 1998-99 with 103. Along with last year's mark of 113, the other seasons that ended with 100 or more points include 2000-01 (109), 2002-03 (113) and 2003-04 (102). So despite a slow start this season, the Senators still have a chance of setting the second-highest point total in team history during the final six regular-season games.
"We dug ourselves a bit of a hole at the start of the year but we knew that if we started playing better it would turn around," centre Jason Spezza says. "We knew we could be a 100-point team."
Murray has been pleased to see the turnaround come as a result of a group effort, not just because of individual stars on the team.
"There are more people doing more things for us now," Murray says. "You've seen the third and fourth line. I think they're real good lines in the National Hockey League. They get up and down the ice real well and they get points occasionally. That's the reason in the regular season you have a chance to be where we are."