Defence, apparently, is still a four-letter word for the Senators.
Usually that four-letter word is "work," but the Senators coaching staff and more than a few of their fans are thinking of less-printable four-letter combinations in the wake of last night's 3-2 loss to the Devils at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators, again, gave up easy goals and goaltender Ray Emery took the loss.
If the "win and you're in" philosophy of Senators coach John Paddock is still valid, that means Martin Gerber will be getting the start Tuesday night when the Senators host the Flyers.
Emery didn't do himself any favours last night, but he didn't get a lot of help from his friends.
Now, after back-to-back wins over the Senators (and a point from a shootout loss to the Thrashers on Friday night), the Devils have closed to within two points of the Senators for top spot in the Eastern Conference (73-71) with both teams having played 59 games. The Canadiens also have 71 points after their 1-0 win over the Flyers last night.
Since winning four games in early January, the Senators are now 5-10-1 in their last 16 and what is surely the most disturbing statistic is they have allowed 55 goals in the process, or a little less than 3 1/2 goals a game.
This isn't just the goaltenders or the defencemen ... this is a team issue.
"It's not good enough. After a game, we're sitting around and everybody is asking whose fault is it? That's B.S.," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden. "We need a sense of urgency. We're closing in on 20 games left and this is the time we've got to get going, doing the little things. We've got to be willing to play hard in our end, make simple plays as defencemen, get the puck moving. The little things are killing us right now."
The goaltending situation doesn't appear to be any closer to resolving itself since Paddock launched his approach in Tampa three weeks and 10 games ago. Since then, Emery is 2-3 (17 goals allowed) and Gerber is 2-2-1 (16 goals against, not counting the one awarded the Devils for their shootout win Wednesday). In Tampa, Paddock said he would give it 10-15 games to pick the winner.
You want to pick one?
Emery gave up three goals on 21 shots through two periods with two of the goals, both by New Jersey's Arron Asham to make it 2-0, in the questionable category. Well, they were questionable if you can get by the fact that in both cases, Asham was allowed to romp pretty much untouched down the right wing and into the Senators zone, pointing out -- once again -- the glaring inefficiency of this team when it comes to defending its blue line and making opponents earn their entries (think about the overtime winner Wednesday night, too).
"Too little too late. We didn't get off to the start we wanted, but we really shot ourselves in the foot with penalties in the second," said Paddock.
"We didn't get the puck through the neutral zone. We didn't expose the trap.
"Obviously, Asham's (second) goal wasn't a good goal."
After Chris Kelly scored for the Senators to make it 3-2 at 12:53 of the third, Paddock shortened his bench in the third period and defenceman Anton Volchenkov, usually partnered in the top duo with Chris Phillips, found himself a spectator (though he did take a puck in the face earlier in the game, but returned to play). Christoph Schubert moved back onto the blue line from his fourth-line forward role.
On the Devils' first goal, Asham took a shot from 31 feet and followed up on the rebound. By that point, Emery had slid too far to his left, slipping over the goal line outside the left post and losing his net. Asham centred the puck and it went off the stick of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson at 9:05 of the first period.
Asham's second of the night came at 3:10 of the second period when he skated over the Ottawa line and fired a 55-footer that beat Emery to the stick (long) side. Redden was sticking his stick out, but it didn't look like it touched Asham's shot.