Therrien, Gonchar not missing a beat after reuniting in Montreal
MONTREAL — Sergei Gonchar once said he requires “structure,” and that coach Michel Therrien's system gives him just that.
Now, Gonchar is looking for closure.
Nearing the end of his career, Gonchar has been reunited with his old coach and would love to win a championship alongside Therrien. In the early stages of their second stint, Gonchar and Therrien have found success.
“I feel comfortable already,” said Gonchar, who was traded from Dallas to Montreal last week. “When I'm in Mike's system, I always feel comfortable. It's good to be back with him. Hopefully, we can win together.”
Gonchar ignited the Canadiens to impressive victories in his first two games in Montreal. A two-assist performance against the Flyers helped Gonchar record the 800th point of his career on the same night Therrien earned his 300th NHL coaching victory.
“Mike and I understand each other in a different kind of way,” Gonchar said. “I always know exactly what he's looking for.
“It's best for me to know exactly where I should be and what I should do when I'm on the ice, and Mike's system gives me that. It's been pretty easy to pick up.”
Gonchar played some of the finest hockey of his career from 2005-09, when he played under the former Penguins coach. During that stretch, Gonchar scored 177 points in 208 games.
The Canadiens acquired Gonchar because of his history with Therrien, as well as his ability to mentor young players.
Montreal rewarded star defenseman P.K. Subban, with an eight-year, $72 million contract last summer. Earning more money per season than Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Subban has struggled. The Canadiens traded for Gonchar when Subban was in the midst of an 11-game streak that saw him produce no goals and a minus-3 rating.
Subban, demoted to the second power play because of Gonchar's presence, welcomed the veteran.
“He's already being very vocal with me,” Subban said. “And that's a really good thing for me. I've actually encouraged him to be as vocal as possible with me. I want to learn everything from him that I possibly can.”
Gonchar led the way Saturday night. He was on the ice for four of Montreal's six goals against the Flyers.
Although a step slower at 40, Gonchar's ability to run the power play appeared in good form against Philadelphia. On the opening power play, he fired a quick pass to defenseman Andrei Markov that eventually led to a Canadiens goal.
On the next power play, Gonchar picked off Flyers center Claude Giroux's clearing attempt, setting up another Canadiens goal.
When Philadelphia staged a comeback, Therrien opted to put Gonchar on the ice after each of the three Flyers goals.
“He's still got that calm when he has the puck,” Therrien said. “You could see it.”
His new teammates could, too.
Subban said Gonchar's demeanor is something the Canadiens can use on and off the ice.
Montreal leads the Atlantic Division, and the Penguins lead the Metropolitan Division. The teams clash Tuesday in Montreal.
“This guy has been awesome,” Subban said. “He's exactly what we thought he would be. He's impactful and calm at the same time.”