Itís mid-November in Ottawa, so something must be wrong with the Senatorsí goaltending.
At issue is the recent play of Pascal Leclaire, who turned in a particularly grim performance ó especially in the third period ó in a 5-1 loss to the Flyers on Thursday in Philadelphia.
ď(Heís been) inconsistent. We need more from him,Ē said Senators coach Cory Clouston. ďFor the most part, the games that weíve won, heís been there for us. Itís pretty simple: When heís been there, the chances of us winning are pretty good and, for the most part, heís made some timely saves in our wins.
ďThe last little while he has almost been the opposite, (allowing) goals that have lost some of the momentum for us. Itís a long season. Heís a battler. Heís got kinks to work out, but heíll be good.Ē
Since Clouston doesnít announce his starter until game day, itís anyoneís guess whoíll start Saturday against the Rangers.
Leclaire, however, was the last one off the ice following a one-hour workout, which means backup Brian Elliott will likely start for the first time since he lost 5-2 to the Lightning on Oct. 29.
Leclaire has started 13 of Ottawaís 16 games, posting an average 6-5-1 record with a 2.89 GAAand .892 save percentage.
At the start of the season, Leclaire, acquired in a trade from the Blue Jackets last February for forward Antoine Vermette (who had three goals and nine assists in 17 games heading into last nightís play with Columbus), was getting plenty of pats on the back. Now, heís facing a lot of criticism because he hasnít been sharp lately:
- He didnít look good on the opening goal by the Flyers. He misplayed a puck in the trapezoid and Phillyís Blair Betts ended up putting it home.
- In a 4-3 shootout victory Tuesday over Edmonton, Leclaire was spectacular, at times, but gave up a weak five-hole goal to Gilbert Brule, allowing the Oilers to tie the game the third period.
The Senators canít afford those miscues if they hope to stay in contention for a playoff spot.
ďThe last week, Iíve had some ups and downs, but thatís going to happen,Ē said Leclaire. ďThe most important thing is to stay positive and try to learn from your mistakes. Itís a long season. Iím not worried at all.
ďIím always a positive guy. I have a tendency to forget pretty quick. Thatís my personality. I donít do anything special (to try to get out of a funk). Since Iíve been a kid, I donít really worry about things too much. Whatever is done is done. You donít have any control over it and you canít really change it. Iím just going to go look ahead.Ē
The players havenít lost faith in Leclaire.
ďItís a team effort,Ē said winger Chris Neil. ďEverbody has been on Pascal with all the questions (he faced Friday). Heís played well for us. You canít say enough about that. If he gets on a roll here, itís going to be fun for everyone to watch. Every time heís in the net, he gives us a chance to win.Ē
Clouston said goalies go through different stretches during a season.
ďThereís times when the puck looks like the size of a beach ball and thereís times when it looks like the size of a pea,Ē said Clouston. ďItís a matter of (Leclaire) just finding that structure, that comfortable position and just being poised. For the most part, weíve seen that.
ďItís fallen off a little bit lately. Our team, if the goaltender isnít playing quite as well, we need to be a little bit stronger in front of him.Ē