|Senators owner Eugene Melnyk speaks with the media about his team's recent performance level during his annual skate for kids at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
The Ottawa Senators' No. 1 fan is as frustrated by the close losses as anybody.
But Eugene Melnyk's confidence in his team has hardly wavered in the face of the Senators' current 1-5-0 skid, which includes back-to-back 2-1 losses to the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins this week.
"So far, we're in the game," the Senators owner said during his annual Eugene Melnyk Skate For Kids earlier today. "We showed a lot of guts in the last few games and you know, I'm still very, very optimistic ... It's just frustrating that we're losing these one-goal games. But in the end, it'll bounce our way as well, as it did a few nights ago (in Monday's 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings)."
Melnyk watched his team fire 44 shots at Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Friday afternoon, only to come up one goal shy at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The result dropped the Senators' record to 10-12-1, good for 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
"Everybody would be a lot happier if we had a different record and kind of reversed things," said Melnyk. "But yesterday was a really, really important game to see what we can do as a team. Anytime you go out there and take 40-plus shots on a goaltender and you're playing an elite team and just coming up that short … it’s kind of disheartening but on the other hand, you look at it and say it could have gone either way. There’s so many chances.
"It just continues to prove what I’ve been talking about and that is it’s a game of inches and it’s brutal at times."
However, Melnyk quickly dismissed any suggestion his team is underachieving.
"Not at all. Don't even go there," he said. "I think our guys put 150 per cent (effort) in, every one of them. Now we have a healthy team and I think you're going to see a lot of good things coming out of the team on the ice ... Don't underestimate this team or the heart of this team or the experience or I think, most importantly, their will to win.
"These are tough guys and they're not going to put up with giving up games like this anymore. Trust me on that."
Melnyk watched from afar last season as the Montreal Canadiens struggled at times during the regular season, then rode the hot play of goaltender Jaroslav Halak all the way to the Eastern Conference final. He has faith his own team can make the same kind of impact before this season is done.
"The bottom line is, we could have won yesterday. We should have won yesterday," he said. It didn't go our way for a number of reasons. But we'll have our day in the sun. I'm telling you, just watch this team."