If you can’t laugh at yourself, you can’t laugh at anything at all.
Such was the case for slumping Ottawa Senators sniper Bobby Ryan Wednesday afternoon, as he poked fun at himself — as well as a couple of his teammates — for failing to hit an empty net as time ticked down on Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I hit the one guy standing in front of the net and on the breakaway (chance a few seconds earlier), the puck was just a little too far for me to reach and instead of trying to dive for it, I figured I would let it die in that corner and kill at least 20 seconds,” Ryan said, shaking his head following practice at the Canadian Tire Centre. “Thankfully, I wasn’t the only guy who was feeling it on that play, because (Jared) Cowen hit a post and (Kyle) Turris hit a shin pad. So, the three of us were able to hang our heads together there.”
In the big picture, it was a victory, giving Ryan and his teammates hope they may finally be able to climb into an elusive playoff spot Thursday. If the Senators can finally solve Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday and the rest of the stars align just right, Ottawa could own a wild card spot at the end of the night.
Yet in the narrow picture of Ryan’s situation, he has now gone five games without a goal and has scored only once in his past 12 games. As much as the Senators were ecstatic to receive the winning goal from Jason Spezza and a surprising two-goal effort from Stephane Da Costa against Columbus, Ryan will have to get back scoring consistently for the Senators to have long-term success.
Ryan is definitely in the midst of a down cycle, and while he’s trying hard to not let the slump consume him, he’s certainly thinking about it.
“No, I’m not getting enough chances,” he said. “The pucks just aren’t finding me in certain areas. I’ve always had a lull every year and it’s always been around this time. I’m just a little far away from the puck. I’ve got to be a little more reactive towards the puck a little bit.
“When you’re pressing like that and the stick feels like it weighs 30 pounds, you start to cheat a little bit and you start to make plays that wouldn’t normally try to make or force the issue,” he added. “You’ve got to sit back and be a little more relaxed in that regard.”
Case in point came Tuesday, when a Ryan drop pass in the Columbus zone turned directly into a dangerous two-on-one break for the Blue Jackets. Clarke MacArthur eventually broke up the play with some determined backchecking.
Senators coach Paul MacLean insists Ryan is putting himself in good enough scoring positions.
“He could skate a little bit more, move a little bit more and I would like to see him miss goalies (with the shots) — he has a had a lot of shots blocked,” he said, with a laugh. “Is he not shooting quick enough? That could be the issue. But it’s that cycle thing again. What scares me is if he stops shooting. Right now, he does have the mentality that he is shooting.”
It’s all in keeping with the streaky nature of top scorers. As Ryan says, he’s been through similar stretches during his career.
–In 2012-13, he went nine games without a goal from April 3-22 and scored only once during a 16-game span from March 22-21;
–In 2011-12, he endured separate droughts of six games and eight games;
–In 2010-11, he was held goalless for an eight game stretch and a seven game stretch;
–In his rookie season of 2007-08, he went a dozen games between goals.
For all that, Ryan has still wound up in the 30-35 goal range every season. With 19 goals in 53 games this year, he’s currently on pace for 29 goals.
ANDERSON MOVES UP
Craig Anderson’s win Tuesday was his 73rd with the Senators, passing Ron Tugnutt into second place on the franchise’s all-time list of for goaltender victories. Patrick Lalime leads the way at 146. “He’s a long ways away, nobody likes to be second,” Anderson said with a smile. “That’s kind of the ultimate goal for any hockey player, to find a place they want to play and like to play in. So far, it has been a good three and a half years.”
DA COSTA JOINS ELITE GROUP
After scoring twice against Columbus, Stephane DaCosta became only the fourth player born in France to have a multi-goal game in the NHL. The others are Antoine Roussel, Philippe Bozon and some guy named Paul MacLean. Da Costa has a ways to go to match MacLean. MacLean had 56 multi-goal games in the NHL.
Mark Stone, who injured his wrist after crashing into the boards at practice Jan. 20, worked out with the club Wednesday – in a non-contact sweater. “I’m feeling better. I wouldn’t say I’m quite comfortable yet, but the shooting is starting to come around,” he said.