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Sergei Gonchar



 Sergei Gonchar

Sergei Viktorovich Gonchar (born April 13, 1974) is a Russian professionalice hockey defenceman currently playing for the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League (NHL). He has also played for the Washington CapitalsBoston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Due to the 2012 NHL lockout, Gonchar signed with the Kontinental Hockey League‘s Metallurg Magnitogorsk for the 2012-13 season.

Playing career

Sergei Gonchar began his professional career in 1991 with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the Soviet Championship League. He also played two seasons for Dynamo Moscow.

Gonchar was the first round pick, 14th overall, of the Washington Capitals in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. He began hisNorth American career in 1994, suiting up in two playoff games for the Capitals’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Portland Pirates. He continued with Portland in 1994–95, before making his NHL debut, with the Capitals, on February 7, 1995 against the Buffalo Sabres.[1] He would appear in 31 games total during the lockout-shortened1994–95 season. The following year, in his first full-length campaign in the NHL, Gonchar would tally 41 points, showing his potential as an effective offensive defenceman.

In the 1998-99 season, Gonchar became the first Russian defenseman to score over 20 goals in regular-season play.[2] The following season, Gonchar would break the 50-point mark for the first time in his career. He would also finish in fifth place in Norris Trophy voting as the NHL’s best defenceman.[3]

After 57- and 67-point (tied for a career high) seasons in 2000–01 and 2002–03 respectively, Gonchar was named to the Second All-Star Team both seasons.

On March 3, 2004, in his tenth season with the Capitals, Gonchar was traded to the Boston Bruins for Shaone Morrisonn and two draft picks. Finishing the season with Boston, he would tally 58 points, leading all NHL defencemen.[1] Between 2000 and 2004, Gonchar recorded more points than any other defenceman, with 74 goals and 241 points. [4]

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Sergei Gonchar in action with Pittsburgh

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Gonchar with the Penguins.

During the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Gonchar returned to Russia to play forMetallurg Magnitogorsk, where he played with future Pittsburgh teammatesPetr Sýkora and Evgeni Malkin.[1] After the lockout, Gonchar signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins on August 4, 2005.[5] In2006–07, his second season with Pittsburgh, Gonchar tied a career-high with 67 points. In addition to his on-ice duties for the Penguins, Gonchar housed rookie Evgeni Malkin when he arrived from Russia in October 2006.[6]

The following season, Gonchar helped lead the Penguins, with offensive superstarsSidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, the franchise’s first finals appearance since 1992. After a 65-point regular season (the eighth 50-plus point season of his career), Gonchar added 14 points in 20 playoff games, as the Penguins lost in the finals to the Detroit Red Wings. Gonchar placed fourth in Norris Trophy voting, tying his best-ever placing for the league’s best defenceman.[citation needed]

During the first game of the 2008–09 pre-season, Gonchar was hit into the boards by David Kočí in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightningdislocating his shoulder. It was reported that he would miss 4–6 months after opting for arthroscopic surgery.[7] While both Gonchar and defensive partner Brooks Orpik claimed the hit was late, well after Gonchar had completed a pass, it was asserted by coach Michel Therrien as a clean hit and that Koci had simply “finished his check”.[8][9] With the Penguins struggling to make the playoffs, Gonchar returned to play his first game of the season on February 14, 2009, against the Toronto Maple Leafs after being sidelined for 21 weeks.[10] He played in the final 25 games of the regular season and tallied 19 points, helping the Penguins into the2009 playoffs as the fourth seed. However, playing in game four of the Conference Semi-Finals against the Washington Capitals, Gonchar suffered a serious knee injury. Despite being initially expected to be out for several weeks and possibly the remainder of the playoffs,[11] Gonchar returned for game seven of the series.[12] Gonchar and the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup in seven games, facing the Detroit Red Wings for the second consecutive year. After winning, he revealed he had been playing with a partially torn medial collateral ligament.[13]

Gonchar was sidelined with injuries again for a total of 20 games in the 2009–10 season. Despite missing time, he went on to record his ninth 50-point season in the past 10 seasons, besting Nicklas Lidstrom‘s eight. He also had his eleventh season with 10 goals or more, tying Sergei Zubov for the most 10+ goal seasons among Russian defencemen. Gonchar finished the season third in points-per-game average among defencemen (behind Norris Trophy nominees Mike Green and Duncan Keith). He set an NHL record on March 2, 2010, by scoring his 200th NHL goal, making him the first Russian defenceman to ever do so in the NHL.[citation needed]

From the 2000-01 season to the 2009-10 season, Gonchar tallied exactly 500 points, which was second among NHL defensemen only to Nicklas Lidstrom’s 550 points.[14]Gonchar was also second among NHL defensemen in assists during that span with 372 assists, behind Lidstrom’s 434 assists. However, he led the league in goals by a defenseman during that span, scoring 128 goals. Rob Blake was second with 119 goals, while Lidstrom had 116 goals. Gonchar would actually lead the NHL in points-per-game average among NHL defensemen during that span, scoring at 0.80 points per game to Lidstrom’s 0.76 points per game. He would also lead the league in goals created per game among NHL defensemen with 0.27 to Al MacInnis‘s 0.26 and Lidstrom’s 0.25. In fact, since his first NHL season in 1995, only Lidstrom has scored more points among defencemen. Lidstrom tallied 889 points in that time, while Gonchar tallied 684 points.[15] Scott Niedermayer was third with 653 points.

On July 1, 2010, Gonchar signed a three-year, $16 million contract with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.[16] The deal included a no-trade clause. Gonchar returned to Pittsburgh on October 18, 2010, for a regular season game against the Penguins where he was welcomed by Pittsburgh fans with a standing ovation and highlight reel from his career with the team.

[edit]Awards

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