Six games into what many predict to be the Ottawa Senators' rebound season and already the fans are weary, the coach is frustrated and the team is looking fragile.
The Senators are now 1-4-1 and 27th in the league on the power play, 29th for goals against and 27th for taking penalties.
The finger-waving is strong and furious, drawing attention to the goaltending crisis, the sloppy defensive play in their own end and the always popular lack of secondary scoring.
The goaltending situation seems to grow larger with each game. In the past three outings, we have seen three different goaltenders.
Ottawa's season starter, Pascal Leclaire, has missed two games due to a groin pull and it is unsure when he will return. In his absence, Brian Elliott has a disappointing 4.62 GAA and a .863 save percentage and 19-year-old prospect Robin Lehner has been pushed to experience his first 34 minutes of the NHL.
After the Senators 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night, coach Cory Clouston singled out the team's defensive play as another area of concern.
“They came out hard," he said. "We were almost like waiting for something to happen."
“We have to be more physical on the back end. I didn’t think that we were strong enough on the puck in our zone."
“I thought that they were just a little bit too much for us physically at times, whether it was competing for pucks or just being pushed off pucks."
“We didn’t battle in those areas, whether it was in the corners or in front of the net. If there was a loose puck, they seemed to be on it.”
Defenceman Sergei Gonchar agreed.
"System-wise we should be doing a better job," Gonchar said. "There are a few things missing I would say"
The lack of secondary scoring is also a major concern. Alexei Kovalev, Peter Regin and Nick Foligno are all without goals this season and all three have seen their on-ice time reduced as a result. Kovalev's lack of production is especially worrisome considering he is ranked as one of the veterans who should be providing leadership in these frustrating times.
"I can't be OK with my game because I want to contribute and put up points and help the team," Kovalev said. "We're not scoring as much as we wanted to, but the chances are there and eventually it's going to go in."
Everyone seems to agrees that nothing is going right for the team and that the responsibility falls to the veterans to set the example and battle through this slump.
"When things are tough, when you are struggling, you need your older players to step up and take charge," Clouston said.
"The young guys will follow us," added team captain Daniel Alfredsson. "If we take charge and lead the way, they are going to follow."
"We know in the locker-room what we are capable of. It's up to us to come out of this, and when we do, the fans will be with us."
Christopher Smith runs senspedia.com, an Ottawa Senators fan site.