Before the start of the season, DaveYoung and yours truly picked Sergei Gonchar to have a bounce-back season for the Senators. After the first couple of games, that looked insane. However, Gonchar has picked up his play and has now passed Daniel Alfredsson in the team scoring race, sitting fourth with 6 points. He's also averaged over 21 minutes of ice time if you discount the game against the Washington Capitals that he was forced to leave after the first period.
Gonchar is looking more and more comfortable with Jared Cowen and the stability in the pairings has coincided with some improved defensive play by the Senators (and admittedly weaker opponents). The Senators currently have the #1 ranked power play in the NHL at 31.2%. To judge Gonchar's importance to the power play, the one game the Senators played without Gonchar, the power play looked awful and went 0 for 5 against Philadelphia. Since his return, the power play has gone for 4 for 7, including a perfect 3 for 3 in the last two games. In fact, in the eight games Gonchar has played, the power play is an incredible 37%.
That's not to say every power play goal has been because of Sergei Gonchar, but the improvement since his return was pretty obvious to me. Gonchar hasn't been perfect, the miscommuncation between him, Craig Anderson and Jared Cowen last night was pretty bad. Overall though, I think Gonchar has been a very good player for the Senators in the last six games. For what it is worth, Gonchar is currently on pace for 0 goals and 61 assists if he plays 81 games. He is unlikely to hit 61 points, but count me as one who would rather Gonchar not get traded this season.
I hope he gets a nice cheer from the crowd tomorrow night.
Links after the jump.
- Game recap. (Silver Seven, Ottawa Sun, Senators Extra)
- Stats from NHL.com [Boxscore] [Game summary] [Face-offs] [Play by play] [Ice time]
- Advanced stats from TimeOnIce.com, the one interesting thing I saw was that Jared Cowen was only put out for 1 defensive zone face-off and David Rundblad was put out for 7 of them. Also, it is tougher to do match-ups on the road, but Kuba/Karlsson pairing played against the Eric Staal line more than any other. I've been really impressed by Kuba this season. [Corsi Ratings] [Head-to-head ice time] [Zone starts]
- Paul MacLean was one of the first players to start wearing a visor. Jared Cowen has always worn one. However, Filip Kuba doesn't wear one with the Senators, and found it difficult to wear one at the Olympics where it is mandatory. (Senators Extra)
- Just in case you want more opinions on the Mika Zibanejad stay-or-go debate, here are a couple more. Nichols wonders if the decision being delayed to the weekend would mean that there are diverging opinions. I would guess Bryan Murray wants to send him back and Paul MacLean wants to keep him. (The 6th Sens, Ottawa Sun)
- Alexei Yashin's wife, Carol Alt, would like to retire in Ottawa after Yashin's career is over. Alt, a supermodel who eats raw meat, finds Ottawa to be just the right amount of boring. (Ottawa Citizen)
- Is Jason Spezza becoming relevant in fantasy hockey again? He's currently tied for second in the NHL in points. Chris Neil is also having a good fantasy start for leagues with penalty minutes, currently on pace to tie the league record for penalty minutes. (Sports Illustrated)
- I might have linked to this article already, but I just noticed the Citizen is using "Paulrus". We coined that right? (Ottawa Citizen)
- Matt Puempel and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have been named to the OHL and QMJHL teams respectively to face the Russian U20 team. (Ottawa Citizen)
- Daniel Alfredsson returned to practice today and skated with Mika Zibanejad and Nick Foligno. Zibanejad's presence doesn't necessarily mean he plays tomorrow, as Murray has hinted he might not decide until the weekend. (Brent Wallace)