With five consecutive losses in a row — all in regulation time — the Ottawa Senators players can feel the pressure mounting in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“It’s frustrating. When you get frustrated, you grip your stick tighter or whatever. We have to get our swagger back, if that’s what you want to call it,” said forward Chris Neil on Wednesday morning.
The Senators did not hit the ice in Philadelphia on Wednesday, opting for an off-ice workout at the team’s hotel instead. A lengthy practice probably would not help the Senators right now, as many of their problems appear to be mental at this stage of the game. The club is well aware that their recent slide has many people wondering if they have the resolve to make the playoffs.
“Now from the outside, the expectations have gotten bigger because we are where we are. It’s a position we want to be in still — It’s not something we fear,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “It’s something we feel that we’ve worked so hard to get to this point, that we really want to do everything we can when we look back after this season to say we didn’t leave anything to chance or anything behind in terms of effort. That’s all you can ask for.”
The Senators remain in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but have yet to win a game in the month of April. As a result, the teams behind them have closed the gap and the ninth-placed Winnipeg Jets sit just two points behind Ottawa — although the Senators do have two games in hand. The club is trying to take the approach of taking care of their own business, rather than watching the out-of-town scoreboard and the standings on a daily basis.
“I think it’s normal for this time of the year when you’re battling for the playoffs – it doesn’t matter if you’re older or younger. We are mature enough to handle it and it’s not going to be an issue,” said defenseman Sergei Gonchar. “I think the main thing we have to do is we have to play the way we should play. Not thinking about the playoffs, not thinking about the standings.”
The Senators have been relying heavily on a roster filled with inexperienced players who have never been in this situation before at the NHL level. Their second line, for example, consists entirely of three rookies in Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanjead and Cory Conacher. With the season seemingly hanging in the balance, this is the point where the veteran leadership is planning on having a calming influence inside the room.
“We have quite a few veterans to fall back on. This is a time for us to be solid and be dependable and kind of guide the younger guys and make sure they don’t feel the pressure. It’s up to us,” said Alfredsson.
The most frustrating part of this five-game slide is that not only have all the losses occurred in regulation time, but the Senators have been tied in the third period in each of the last four contests. The games have been up for grabs in the late stages, but they have simply lacked the killer instinct.
“We’re not playing that bad. Throughout the season, we’ve been able to find a way to win it in the third period,” added Alfredsson. “We’re used to tie games, but lately here we’ve been finding ourselves on the wrong end of those.”