It's no secret to anyone who has been watching (or reading for that matter) that Sergei Gonchar
has been a key cog in this Sens machine that continues to roll through adversity this season.
Not only is Gonchar tied for a team record after registering an assist in his eighth straight game, he has been a steady defensive presence on the back end, getting the action headed towards the opposing goal and clearing his own zone effectively. He has been so good, in fact, that his teammates have taken to calling him 'Benjamin Button' after the movie/short story character who gets younger as he ages.
Now, for what it's worth, Gonchar has been a steady player all season for the Sens. With extra time on the ice, however, he has thrived and aided the team greatly in their quest to fill the boots of Erik Karlsson. The spotlight has only served to garner recognition for play that has been steady and consistent all year.
Many believe, in fact, that if Gonchar's play continues to stay this consistent and his point production continues to trend upwards he could be a Norris Trophy candidate. It's a long shot, sure, but it would be a remarkable event for a player that has almost seemed to defy the odds by not receiving greater consideration for the award. Gonchar has finished in the top five in voting twice in his career, a total that seems low when you consider it was not long ago that he was the premier offensive defenceman in hockey.
Gonchar thinks that a balance of his own game coming around and the added ice time have led to his resurgence, "I've been playing pretty good hockey but the opportunities are there. Obviously we have a lot of injuries, you're playing a little bit more, you're spending more time on the power play."
A byproduct of Gonchar's play has meant additional trade rumours surrounding him as we near the April 3 deadline. Veteran defencemen, Stanley Cup winners and expiring contracts are all hot commodities on deadline day. Gonchar happens to be all three.
Having already been traded once on the deadline during his career, Gonchar has enough experience to know not to think about the rumours. He is focused on the Sens.
"I've been in the league for a long time and I know if you think about those things it can be a distraction for your game. I try to focus on every night and not look forward too much. If something comes up, then I'll have to deal with it. As it is now I'm just working hard and focused on the games."
While there may be a lot in the air with Gonchar and his status, he is simultaneously making himself more attractive and harder to deal with his strong play. We'll see if he can stretch that assist streak to nine games tonight against Boston, his former team and his deadline destination in 2004.
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