OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators are in need of answers after a pair of weekend losses on home ice. Captain Jason Spezza hoped to find them by holding a players-only meeting on Monday.
Frustration was setting in after 5-2 loss to San Jose on Sunday followed Friday’s 2-1 defeat to Anaheim at the Canadian Tire Centre, and Spezza felt it was time to clear the air.
“You can tell guys left the rink (Sunday) night frustrated, myself included,” Spezza said. “When you get frustrated it’s useless. Being frustrated and not talking about it can be a useless emotion so when you get frustrated as a group, and I sensed I was frustrated and the guys were frustrated, that it’s important to talk about it so things don’t just fester.”
The decision to make it a player’s only meeting was to allow everyone to have a voice and not feel censored. Spezza said the team talked for about 35 minutes and is hopeful the dialogue will result in a better performance Tuesday night when the Senators take on the Chicago Blackhawks.
“The worse thing you can do is to just keep letting things go the same way without discussing things and keep coming to the rink and continuing not playing how we want to play,” said Spezza. “It was a good, open conversation. We talked about our starts not being where they want to be and maybe how we approach games maybe has to change.”
Of the Senators 11 games this season they have given up the first goal eight times. On both Friday and Sunday they gave up a two-goal lead.
Most alarming over the past two games has been the Senators play in their own end and the number of mistakes being made that ultimately result in goals against.
“Mistakes happen, that’s just the nature of this game,” said goalie Craig Anderson. “Right now, for whatever reason, we’re making mistakes and the puck ends up in our net. It’s one of those things where we need to be a little more assertive and a little more confident in what we’re doing out there as opposed to trying to play a little timid.
“I think everyone’s trying to play not to make a mistake as opposed to just playing hard and live with the mistake you make.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean is hopeful the meeting will help players find solutions, otherwise he says things will likely be taken out of their control and “the next thing that happens is people start leaving.”
“We feel we have a real good group and we have an opportunity to be very good,” he said. “We have some growing pains right now, but at the end of the day if things don’t get better changes get made—that’s the history of the game.”
Overall MacLean has no issue with the effort being put forth; if anything he believes it’s a matter of individuals trying to do too much. He also admitted that getting the puck out of their own end has been a concern.
“We’ve been known in the past as being a pretty efficient team and getting out of our zone and not spending a lot of time there,” said MacLean. “To this point in time we haven’t been that. For me right now our execution or our passing hasn’t been to the level it needs to be.”
It’s clear much of the Senators’ troubles stem from play in their own end, but MacLean says Anderson “has been one of our best if not our best player.”
He also on to highlight out the play of backup goaltender Robin Lehner and forward Zack Smith.
As a whole the Senators defensive corps could be better. Erik Karlsson has been great offensively, but he has made glaring mistakes defensively. The young trio of Jared Cowen, Eric Gryba and Patrick Wiercioch have all struggled at times as well.
“Our forwards have to help them more than they have to this point, but they also have to help themselves,” said MacLean. “They need to play better. They need to get themselves settled in and pass the puck better than they have.”
Of the Senators 11 games, eight have been against Western Conference opponents, including two against the both the league-leading Sharks and third-place Ducks.
“Right now we’re nearing the end of probably the toughest stretch in our schedule as far as opponents,” said MacLean. “That’s not an excuse, but we’ve played some very good teams over the first 12 games of the year, finishing off (Tuesday) in Chicago. We’ve had some competition which has been a test for us and have we come through it, has there been a little bit of adversity.
“This team has gone through adversity in the past and come out of it a pretty good group and a pretty dedicated group and that’s my expectation is what will happen.”
Notes: No decision has been made on the Senators starting goaltender for Tuesday’s game. LW Clarke MacArthur could be back in the lineup after missing Sunday’s game with a minor injury. MacArthur took part in a full practice Monday and said he would have to wait and see how his body reacted to the workout. The Senators haven’t won in Chicago since the 2000-01 season.