MONTREAL — Cold out, eh? Well how do you think Sergei Gonchar feels?
It's a very chilly minus-14 in his world.
The Senators highest priced defenceman entered Tuesday’s game against the Habs with a plus-minus rating that was tied for 729th best — out of 734 skaters — in the NHL.
With a minus-14, Gonchar is in sniffing distance of James Wisniewski’s league worst minus-18.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think anybody would be happy having that stat,” Gonchar boldly stated after the morning skate. “At the same time, I’m old enough to understand some time these stats aren’t showing exactly what you’re doing.”
Of course not. An opponent can score just as you’re stepping off the ice. Or while your goalie is on the bench for an extra attacker. Or during one of your powerplays, which happened to Gonchar Sunday in New York.
Coach Cory Clouston would later sprinkle the blame on both winger Bobby Butler and Gonchar, saying the rookie wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing and the veteran was covering up.
Others just saw a very soft pinch by a guy who should be better than that.
“You have to stick with it, just play your game, make sure you stay positive and make sure you try to do your best,” Gonchar said of his plan on getting out of this rut. “If you’re so focused on those minuses, it keeps hitting you in the head and it’s going to get worse and worse. Just go out there, and hopefully ... we’ve put a few games together now and if we’re going to continue this way, opportunity is going to present, we’re going to score a few more goals and the pluses will come. That’s the focus I have.”
Me, I can’t get my eyes off that ugly 14. It’s like an accident, which is what signing Gonchar to a three-year deal sometimes looks like.
If he’s playing like this now, what’s he going to be like when he’s a 38-year-old collecting $5.5 million a year?
Gonchar has also contributed 14 points with four goals and 10 assists, but like Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, he arrived in Montreal in a seven-game pointless funk.
“When (Alex) Ovechkin doesn’t score for 10 games, you understand those things,” he said. “It’s not going quite the way you’re planning all the time. It’s one of those things when, as a group, you’re not spending as much time in the offensive zone. You’re not giving yourself a great chance to score every shift you’re out there. I think when we’re going to start playing better, the team as a group is going to have more time in the offensive zone and get more chances.”
Okay, so maybe the 29-game mark isn’t the best time to make a decision on whether he’s been a bust or not.
“That’s why the thing to do is look at the stat at the end of the year,” Gonchar said. “But right now, the focus I have is to make sure the team is winning, and try to help them as much as I can.”
Being on the ice for more goals for than goals against would be a good start.
* Alfredsson’s woes stretched into the defensive zone when, while on the penalty kill, he tried a backhander between his own legs that bounced to Mike Cammalleri, who quickly turned the miscue into the game’s first goal. Not sure what Alfredsson was thinking, but that was the wrong call.
* Chris Kelly got a five-minute boarding penalty, but that seemed a little excessive. Kelly pushed Yannick Weber and the Habs D-man kind of threw himself into the boards. And five minutes for pushing is too much.
Cory Clouston had his snarl on after the morning skate when a Montreal reporter asked if he was “feeling the heat” with the Senators having won just three times in 10 games.
“I feel heat every game. To win,” said Clouston. “No one puts any more pressure on themselves than I do to win.”
Asked if he cares about the “rumblings and speculation” that his job may be in jeapardy, Clouston replied: “Do I care? I’m not sure what you’re asking me. I care about wins and losses. That’s what I care about.”
Starts and Stops
Bobby Butler’s second game saw him go from the first to fourth line by the second period. “We’re more in a game by game situation,” Clouston said Tuesday morning when asked of Butler’s role since coming up from Bingo. “He’s not under the microscope where if he has one bad game he’s going down. We’re just going to analyze the whole situation, look at what we have, who’s playing well and who’s not.”
A big baseball fan, defenceman Chris Campoli wouldn’t pursue free agent ace Zack Greinke if he was running his hometown team, the Blue Jays.
“If I was the GM, I would stay put with basically what I have,” Campoli said Tuesday morning. “Keep the young arms and hope that (Vernon) Wells and (Adam) Lind and (Aaron) Hill have a better year offensively. I think those guys are capable of it. I still think they have a good young core nucleus.” Campoli has a good stick himself. While killing a second period penalty, he took a slap shot from deep in his own end that hit the boards behind Carey Price in the air. Something like that never fails to impress those of us who would never be able to do it ... The problem with the Senators power play, as Gonchar sees it: “We don’t have many power plays, then you have one game, and you’re pushing for a goal too hard ... instead of making plays you’re forcing things.
“We just have to stay focused and positive and when chances present themselves you have to do the things, not worried about it.
“Everybody is trying to force it. The guys are jumping in and trying to help each other.
“The next thing you see they’re out of position and there’s an odd man rush.”