Trade deadline is a difficult time for a number of teams, but it appears to be weighing on the Ottawa Senators.
Ottawa (21-34-5) dropped its third straight game at home Wednesday in a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets and both coaches and players admitted the March 21st deadline is casting a heavy shadow.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t scored in a long time,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “I don’t know if that’s to be expected. The guys that score, score and the guys that don’t usually check and then there’s some other guys that obviously tonight, this week can’t get over quick enough when it comes to the trade deadline. I think to get that out of some guy’s minds whether you know if you’re here or not. To me it looks like it’s weighing on a few guys.”
With the Senators well out of the playoff picture players know change is inevitable. The question is how much change will take place?
“I think maybe there’s some guys that it’s weighing on them a little bit,” admitted Ottawa’s Nick Holden. “It’s always hard when you’re on a team that everybody’s talking about and they’re maybe moving guys. Selling instead of adding, so it’s a tough time of year and I’m sure it’s in the back of guy’s minds for sure.”
The Senators could also be without its best defenceman. Thomas Chabot was hurt early in the second period after taking a hit from Sean Kuraly, who scored an empty-net goal. Chabot was hit along the boards, appeared to be favouring his right arm, and was briefly assessed when he returned to the bench. He went out for one more shift, but was clearly in pain and left the game.
Following the game Smith said “It looks like he’s going to be out a little bit,” and they would know more Thursday.
Columbus was solid right from the start, led by Jack Roslovic’s two goals. Eric Robinson also scored for Columbus (31-27-3), who have won their last three. Elvis Merzlikins, playing his 40th game, stopped 30 shots.
“It was kind of a weird game a little bit,” said Zach Werenski, who had two assists. “I thought we played well in the first. It’s a tie game after, but I thought we were patient. Elvis made some really big saves. We found some ways to score and to get a lead, and then we played with that lead I thought pretty well in front of (Merzlikins). The puck was bouncing a lot tonight. Just a weird game. It felt weird out there.”
The Senators have struggled defensively of late and Wednesday was no exception. Ottawa has given up 18 goals through their last four games.
While losing Chabot was difficult, the Senators just seem to be struggling in their own end of late.
“I think we might be overthinking,” said Holden. “It’s like we’re a step behind. We’re waiting for the play to happen and then we’re reacting to it, whereas, say a month ago, when we were fast on pucks and fast on bodies everybody was just going, anticipating, getting in the right spots. Right now, we’re kind of just playing it slow not wanting to get beat anywhere, which is actually creating more space and they’re beating us.”
Two Columbus goals were a result of poor defensive play and Smith insinuated there could be lineup changes for Friday’s game against the Flyers.
The two teams exchanged goals in the first despite Ottawa not recording its first shot until the nine-minute mark.
Down in the low slot, Ennis opened the scoring midway through the period after redirecting a Chabot shot. Just over five minutes later a weak defensive effort by Nikita Zaitsev allowed Werenski to find Roslovic for a tap-in.
Columbus took a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
A bad line change early in the period allowed Werenski to feed a stretch pass to Robinson, who then stepped into the circle and fired a shot off the far post and in.
On Columbus’s third goal Zaitsev, who had a rough night overall, failed to tie up Roslovic in front and he was able to bury a Patrik Laine rebound.
“I’m trying to build that structured game and be able to make plays consistently,” said Roslovic. “Don’t turn the puck over, just make the right plays and be a good all around player.”
The Senators suggested G Matt Murray might not return this season. He’s out with an upper body injury ... Chris Tierney returned to the Senators lineup after missing the last eight games ... Jakub Voracek and Justin Danforth returned to the Columbus lineup after missing the last game.