Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
|25 сентября 2006
Gonchar makes point to start fast // Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Dave Molinari
LONDON, Ontario -- Sergei Gonchar doesn't hobble when he walks or wince when he talks, so he's probably correct when he says the hip problem he's nursing is minor.
Enough to keep him out of the Penguins' 2-1 exhibition victory against the Philadelphia Flyers last night at the John Labatt Centre -- and off the ice during the morning practice, for that matter -- but not a cause for any real concern.
Nonetheless, Gonchar's bosses are to be forgiven if they are particularly cautious about how he's handled over the next few days. After all, he has been looking like a pretty precious commodity lately.
Perhaps even worthy of the five-year, $25 million contract the Penguins gave him in the summer of 2005.
He has four goals (three on the power play) and two assists in two exhibition games, has made intelligent plays all over the ice and has provided a steadying influence on the Penguins' blue line. That he is rookie center Evgeni Malkin's primary link to his teammates and coaches only enhances his value.
"He's had a really solid camp," coach Michel Therrien said. "He reported in good shape. He feels really comfortable right now."
That tender hip aside, Gonchar should, based on his work during this preseason.
Gonchar long ago earned a reputation as a slow starter, and did absolutely nothing to shake that during his first season with the Penguins. There were times during the first half of 2005-06 when he looked as if he had taken up the game only a couple of weeks earlier.
His decision-making was bad, his execution worse. He looked hopelessly out of place much of the time, and probably felt that way, too.
And while he raised his level of play dramatically during the final months of the season, thanks in part to the increased structure Therrien introduced after replacing Eddie Olczyk as coach, it wasn't enough to prevent Gonchar from remembering last season as a profound disappointment. If not a flat-out disaster.
"I want to do better this year," he said. "It was a very disappointing year, for all of us. We didn't have a good start. We went in with a lot of expectations, and didn't start well.
"It was very hard for all of us, especially for me, after signing a big contract. Hopefully, that's not going to be the case this year. I'm going to try to do everything to avoid it."
Gonchar is wary of putting undue emphasis on what happens in exhibition games -- "Obviously, when the season starts, it's going to be a little more intense," he said -- but appears to have maintained the personal momentum he generated during the stretch drive in the spring.
"The way he played the last two months was really positive for him," Therrien said. "He was playing to the standard he was expecting, and we were expecting."
Gonchar had six goals and 31 assists in his final 23 games, allowing him to match the third-highest point total of his career and surge to eighth place in the scoring race among NHL defenseman. Not bad, considering that he put up just one goal and 10 assists in the previous 24 games.
That would be a pretty typical early season pace for Gonchar, but he believes that neither he nor the Penguins can afford to sputter through the early weeks of 2006-07.
"I know it was the case before, but I'm trying to avoid having it be that way this year," he said. "Hopefully, we're all going to start well.
"A point in October is [the same as] a point in April if we're going to be fighting for the playoffs, which is going to be a goal for us.
"I have to go out there with a [greater urgency] and play well right from the very beginning."
Therrien suggested that Gonchar's start could have a profound impact on how the rest of his season plays out, that he could be a major force if he's effective during October.
"For him, confidence-wise, there's no doubt that it's crucial," Therrien said. "That's why I was hoping that he'd report in great shape, and he did.
"I'm not worried about him. I have a lot of faith in him. He knows his role as a player, knows his role as a leader. He wants good things to happen to this hockey team."
And to be responsible for at least a few of them.
Страничка Сергея Гончара на сайте
"Звёзды с Востока"
21 июля. Защитник «Питтсбурга» Сергей Гончар: Мне
все равно, кто возглавит сборную // "Спорт день за днём"
26 декабря. Penguins Notebook: Russia's Olympic roster
puts big smile on Gonchar's face // Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
21 июля. Защитник «Питтсбурга» Сергей Гончар: Мне все равно, кто возглавит сборную // "Спорт день за днём"
26 декабря. Penguins Notebook: Russia's Olympic roster puts big smile on Gonchar's face // Pittsburgh Post-Gazette