OTTAWA — From the misfiring forwards right down to the struggling goaltenders, the Ottawa Senators know they only have themselves to blame for their current situation.
After a decent start to the season the Senators (11-16-8) have gone into a free fall, and unless they make a dramatic turnaround could be facing a very long second half.
Ottawa sits 15 points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division and 14 back of the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot, making the playoffs a distant hope at best.
"It’s self-inflicted right now," centre Nate Thompson said Thursday. "I think everything that’s happening to us right now is we’re doing to ourselves. There is a lot of season left and no one’s going to feel sorry for us."
Veteran defenceman Dion Phaneuf said the Senators will have to find a way through the hole they have dug for themselves.
"Right now you can feel it, no one’s feeling very good. We’ve done that to ourselves; we’ve put ourselves in this position and we’re going to have to get ourselves out of it.
"Right now we’re in the position we’re at because we deserve to be where we’re at. We have not played well enough."
Coming off a 5-1 loss to the Boston Bruins (20-10-5) Wednesday night the Senators host the Columbus Blue Jackets (22-13-3) Friday and have a rematch with the Bruins Saturday to wrap up the calendar year.
The Senators have lost three in a row and are an abysmal 3-13-3 since returning from its two-game series in Sweden on Nov. 11. No one can pinpoint exactly why things have been so difficult for the Senators the past seven weeks.
"Right now we’re fragile, that much is obvious," said forward Bobby Ryan. "You’re giving up the first goal and you’re looking outward instead of inward sometimes and I think we’re all a little bit to blame in that regard. It’s not so much blaming the guy next to you, but it’s about getting down on yourself and not having the faith of making plays and not having faith in the system, not the system, but we’re covering for another mistake. You’re trying to overdo and it’s just making things worse and compounding problems and I think that’s where we’re at."
The Senators are an offensive disaster this season. Ottawa has scored just 19 goals in its last ten games and been shutout three times.
Mark Stone, with 14 goals, is the lone Ottawa player to have more than 10.
Defensively things are just as disappointing. Goaltending was thought to be the least of the Senators concerns this season, but neither Craig Anderson nor Mike Condon has played very well or been able to show any consistency.
In his last 12 starts Anderson is 2-8-1 with a 3.50 goals-against-average and a .886 save percentage.
While Anderson is far from his best, he hasn’t exactly been getting much support.
The Senators are getting lit up this season as they’ve given up five or more goals ten times already whereas last season it happened a total of 11 times, they’ve allowed four or more goals 14 times.
"The reality is we haven’t played well enough defensively," Phaneuf said. "When you’re not playing well enough defensively you’re giving up too much and it makes it tough to come from behind and to chase the game and we’ve been chasing the game a lot lately."
Thompson believes the Senators need to keep things simple and return to the basics of the game.
"It’s us not doing the little things right," Thompson said. "When you’re not doing the basic things well it’s going to catch up to you. If you look over the past games that we’ve lost, the teams that we played against they just did the little things better than we did. We have to do the fundamentals well."
Notes: Mike Condon will get the start in goal for the Senators against Columbus. Derrick Brassard who missed Thursday’s practice will be ready to play Friday. The team will miss D Fredrik Claesson for two games after the NHL suspended him for his illegal check to the head on Boston’s Noel Acciari.