|Defenceman Chris Phillips suggests it'll take a collective effort for the Senators to put the brakes to a 2-7-0 skid that is taxing the team's confidence level (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
They're a fragile group that's badly in need of a sign that better days are just around the corner.
But say this much about the Ottawa Senators — there's no shortage of faith or optimism among them that they'll soon be able to find it.
On the morning after Thursday's discouraging 4-0 setback at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, the Senators spoke with a collective determination about believing they've got the goods to put the brakes to a 2-7-0 skid that has dropped Ottawa (11-14-1) to 10th place overall in the Eastern Conference heading into Saturday's matchup with the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
"We have the group to do it," centre Mike Fisher said in speaking passionately about the faith he strongly maintains in himself and his teammates. "It's just a matter of doing little things and trying to build ourselves up and believing in ourselves. If you don't have that, you're not going to win games. That's what we need to have and build on."
In the wake of back-to-back losses at home to the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers, the Senators admit their confidence level right now isn't anywhere near where it needs to be. Head coach Cory Clouston acknowledged that keeping his team's spirits up in the face of frustrating setbacks is his biggest chore right now.
"We’ve just got to keep trying to stay positive and try to work through this," he said. "We’ve had real good starts in four straight games. We’ve had leads in three of the (last) four games after the first period. When things start going a little bit south … right now, we don’t have that push back, whether it’s confidence or emotional strength, to sustain that. To me, getting over that mental and emotional barrier is our first priority.
"We need to have some push. Don’t get down on ourselves when we give up a goal or bad play, a penalty or whatever it may be and get off that rollercoaster. Get off that downward spiral. The last four games, we’ve had really good first periods. We’ve just been weak as the game has gone on after a couple of things go wrong."
Added captain Daniel Alfredsson
: "It's a matter of us not having the confidence or the trust. When you’re winning, you don’t force things. It happens naturally. You don’t press things when you don’t need to and that’s where we are now. It’s frustrating for everybody."
"We’ve just got to keep trying to stay positive and try to work through this. We’ve had real good starts in four straight games. We’ve had leads in three of the (last) four games after the first period. When things start going a little bit south … right now, we don’t have that push back, whether it’s confidence or emotional strength, to sustain that. To me, getting over that mental and emotional barrier is our first priority." - Cory Clouston
And by extension, escaping this funk is going to take a group effort. It's the same formula that allowed the Senators to turn a five-game losing streak last January into a franchise-record 11-game winning streak that propelled them to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"When we’re all working together and doing the same things, that’s when things come a little easier," said veteran defenceman Chris Phillips
. "We just have to stick with it. We’ve been playing some good periods. We just have to have that confidence. If we continue to do that and play that way, that we’ll do all right. You can’t go out there being afraid to make mistakes and being afraid to lose. That’s when you get in trouble.
"You’ve got the tendency to sit back, to play safe, to not make mistakes and when you do that, teams just get to come at you wave after wave. Eventually, you’re going to have breakdowns and they’re going to capitalize. I like to use that analogy from baseball — if we’re going to go down, we might as well go down swinging then just watching it go by."
Said Fisher: "There are times when we definitely have to work harder. Everyone here wants to win. We care. We've got a great group of guys. But we've definitely got to get back to putting the hard hat on, for sure."
Clouston knows now isn't the time to tighten the screws even further on a team that's feeling the pressure build around it as the losses mount.
"The easiest thing to do when a team is down is to kick them," he said. "That’s not what we’re doing right now. We’re in this together and we have to make sure we understand that we’ve had the really good starts (to games). We just have to have that mental toughness to sustain that when things start going a little bit south.
"To me, it’s a matter of confidence and a matter of just trusting your game. Often, when you don’t have the confidence ... that’s when it starts to go downhill."Around the boards
Defenceman David Hale has been re-assigned to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League, leaving seven blueliners on the current roster ... After Saturday's matchup against Buffalo, the Senators hit the road for a pair of games — Sunday in New York against the Rangers (5 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200) and Tuesday in Montreal versus the Canadiens (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).