Brady Tkachuk reached a boiling point Saturday night.
The Ottawa Senators captain became frustrated and emotional, having just been booed off the ice after his team lost 6-4 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of a crowd of 17,387 at the Canadian Tire Centre.
The Senators are trying to ignore the outside noise, but with jeers at home, fans openly calling for coach DJ Smith’s job and the club losing four straight at home in the Battle of Ontario in Toronto. It’s difficult to do so. The schedule is next.
An emotional Tkachuk put his own spin on Phil Esposito’s 1972 Summit Series speech against Russia after Team Canada lost in Vancouver and was booed off the ice.
The captain came to protect his team during the storm.
“It’s frustrating and it’s always frustrating when you don’t win,” Tkachuk said. “I’m frustrated by the negative opinions from the outside, the constant booing and bullsh*t from tonight’s crowd.
“We know they’re a passionate fan base and we understand that and we love them, but we’re not going to turn our backs on them in the face of adversity. We’re playing and I know it’s frustrating right now. We’re not giving up there and we’re continuing to fight until the end.
“To be honest, tonight was very frustrating.”
Tkachuk isn’t angry at the fans, he’s just angry at the situation. The club’s record has dropped to 4 wins, 6 losses, and 0 draws, and they are in last place in the Atlantic Division, but expectations are high for them. No one cares more than Tkachuk, and he wants to help this team take the next step more than anyone else in the organization.
The big problem is the fact that the senators are battered, battered and bruised. The club added forwards Mark Kastelic and Ridley Greig to its growing injured list on Saturday after Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
They added defensemen Thomas Chabot (broken hand), Erik Brannstrom (concussion), Artem Zub (concussion) and center Shane Pinto (suspended) to the Senators’ list of missing players. Ta. The problem is, no one wants to hear about injuries, even if that was a factor.
Four of the club’s six blueliners on Saturday had a combined 140 games of NHL experience, but critics don’t want to hear that. In comparison, Jakob Chychrun himself is approaching 400 games.
Saturday’s ice time showed that the Senators didn’t wait long to shorten their bench. After previously calling up center Robbie Gerventi and winger Zach McEwen from Belleville, the club faced the Bolts with essentially 10 forwards and four defensemen.
There are a lot of darts being thrown in Smith’s direction. At one point in the second game, which the Senators lost 3-1, chants of “Fire DJ” went up. It feels like Smith has come under scrutiny after general manager Pierre Dorion was pushed back by owner Michael Andlauer on Wednesday.
Tkachuk made it clear that the group is not quitting the coach or themselves.
“We’re right there. It’s frustrating that we’re facing so much adversity here right now,” Tkachuk said. “But you can’t quit here, and you never have. I don’t think I’ve ever given up on the people who paid to support us. Masu.
“With our group, it’s non-negotiable to finish as hard as we can and leave it all behind no matter what. It can be frustrating at times, but don’t get me wrong, it’s frustrating for them. I understand. But we’re putting it all out there.
“Of course we want to win and of course there was pressure and expectations this year and we want to live up to that. We’re facing a lot of adversity right now and everyone is thinking about very negative things right now. I know I’m in trouble, but I need to get out of it.”
Center Tim Stutzle also supported Smith, though he has struggled without a goal in seven games.
“I don’t see how they have the enthusiasm for that,” Stutzle said. “We’re working hard every night, but we’re not getting any bounces at the moment. They’re trying their best.”
Tkachuk is confident that it won’t take long to turn the situation around.
“Sometimes you can have these bounces. Tonight, it went our way. Unfortunately, we have to bounce back from this situation and we have a few days before we play in Toronto on Wednesday.” Tkachuk said.
After starting a three-game stretch in four days against the Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday, the club is set to head overseas to Stockholm for two crucial regular-season games, but now this is wrong. We’re moving in that direction, so those answers should come soon.
“There’s a lot of good in our game,” Tkachuk said. “There are some things we need to sort out, but now that we have everyone together it’s probably a little more simple and detailed.
“But I have nothing but confidence in this group. I know we can come out of this and I know we’ll be even better because of it.”
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