OTTAWA – If they made a children’s book out of this western venture of the Ottawa Senators, it would be called the “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” road trip.
And their reward for going 1-4 and getting outscored 25-11 while watching their playoff aspirations fade to a shred? The Senators get to come home to face Colorado and Toronto, before trips to Pittsburgh and Boston – then Tampa Bay at home and New Jersey on the road.
It’s reminiscent of the scene from “Home Alone 2” when Kevin McCallister is running from the bad guys and jumps into a taxi cab, relieved to escape.
“Boy, it’s scary out there!”
The cab driver turns around to reveal a frightening visage: “Ain’t much better in here, kid.”
For the Senators, it doesn’t get much better for them in the Eastern time zone, as they face playoff teams over their next six games, three at home and three away.
Players are trying to sound positive, trying to be professional, but the spirit has gone out of their voices after this string of losses. They will have to find their voices and game again in a hurry, flying home Wednesday before meeting the incoming Avalanche on Thursday (at least the Avs play Wednesday night in Toronto).
The latest blow for Ottawa was a 6-3 defeat Tuesday at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, who didn’t have to have their ‘A’ game going. The Senators showed better than they did in the disastrous weekend losses to Vancouver and Calgary, but still gave up way too many blatant chances to a skilled Oilers team.
Which was worse? The lax effort to allow a 2-on-1 early in the game to fall behind 1-0? Or giving up on the play in the dying seconds of the second period? There were eight seconds left on the clock when Edmonton had the puck at its own blue line, before working it up ice, where Nick Bjugstad waltzed in to score with a fraction of a second left in the period. Oilers 5, Senators 2. Game over.
Head coach D.J. Smith insisted his team deserved better, and the Senators did put 32 shots on young Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner. The Senators power play looked better, and got a goal from Brady Tkachuk. Tim Stutzle scored twice, including a beauty shorthanded, from Dylan Gambrell.
But you are not going to win games by giving up five or more goals. On this trip, the Senators gave up five to Chicago, four to Seattle, five each to Vancouver and Calgary, and six to Edmonton. Is it any wonder they won just one of those five games?
Bless the kid goalies for trying, but they have been in tough since the injury to Cam Talbot a couple of weeks ago. In his last four outings, Mads Sogaard has had save percentages of .762, .879, .862 and .844. Kevin Mandolese had an .872 save percentage in the 5-1 loss in Calgary.
Smith said the young goaltenders are gaining great experience. The hope is that they don’t get so discouraged that it sets them back.
The coach continues to talk bravely as the ship sinks.
“This group’s not going to quit, not going to give in,” Smith said after the loss in Edmonton, while looking ahead to games against Colorado and Toronto.
“We’re not going to back down. We’ll be ready.”
He has to hope so. Because the Senators give up enough when they are still pushing and trying. If they ease up or give up against this next string of competition, it could get ugly.
Tkachuk was almost speechless after the latest loss.
“A lot of guys left it all out there, it just sucks losing,” Tkachuk said, adding that this road trip was “not what we wanted, not what we expected.”
When the captain says the team will “put the work boots on and be ready to go Thursday,” you believe him. Because it’s Brady. And he knows no other way.
Tkachuk steps up for Boys and Girls Club
On Wednesday evening, Tkachuk and his fiance, Emma Farinacci, will announce their commitment to be ambassadors for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. It’s a great choice by the captain and by BGC Ottawa. The late broadcaster Brian Smith, who played with fellow Ottawa legend Brian Kilrea for the Los Angeles Kings in their inaugural season (1967-68), was a great supporter of the Boys and Girls Club. Smitty attended Boys and Girls Club camps as a youth. As a young Senator, Erik Karlsson was a BGC ambassador. Former captain Daniel Alfredsson also did work on behalf of the club.
Joseph out ‘a couple weeks’
Injuries continue to be an issue for the Senators. Forwards Mathieu Joseph and Parker Kelly, plus defenceman Thomas Chabot, all missed the Edmonton game with assorted injuries. Joseph could be out “a couple of weeks,” Smith said. Kelly and Chabot, injured on shot blocks, could be back in the lineup much sooner.