Sergei Gonchar catches a lot of abuse, from Penguins fans but from the media in general who dismiss him as simply a powerplay point producer and not much in his own end. To be sure, Sarge piles up the points as he's basically the general of a successful powerplay.
But he also matches up against the other team's top line night after night, plays 25+ minutes a game, and often acquits himself quite well. So I looked at the numbers for the first seven games and here's what I found, all goals for and against are while both team's top line is out at even strength:
Disclaimer: I looked this data up and believe it to be truthful, but if I made a mistake it was accidental. Point it out and I will correct it. Also, obviously not every second of even strength icetime matches up exactly against the opponent's top line, so it's not 99.99% scientific. But whatev, you'll get the point....
Game 1---Carolina and Eric Staal's line:
1 goal against
Gonchar had 12:02 even strength time (21:42 overall)
Game 2---Anaheim and the Perry/Getzlaf line:
2 goals against (2 goals for)
14:04 ES icetime for Gonchar (22:18 overall)
Game 3---Montreal and mainly Koivu or Kovalev
0 aganist (0 for)
18:35 ES icetime for Gonchar (25:48 overall)
Game 4---Toronto and Sundin line (plus additional duty to cover the Orpik injury)
1 goal against (2 goals for)
15:24 ES ictime (32:29 overall)
Game 5---New Jersey and the Elias line
1 goal against (0 goals for)
13:42 ES icetime for Gonchar (27:36 overall)
Game 6---Carolina and Staal:
0 against (0 goals for)
15:32 ES icetime, (28:58 overall)
Game 7---Washington and A-HOLE
0 against*, (0 goals for)
16:57 ES icetime (24:55 overall)
*The asterik beside the Washington game is because Gonchar was on the ice for an even strength goal. But the defensive pair out was the regular unit of Whitney/Orpik; Gonchar was on the ice because he had just gotten out of the penalty box. Additionally, Washington's top line did not create the goal, so the for sake of demonstrating Gonchar as a top pairing defenseman; this goal will not be included for these purposes. But I did want to point out that I realize he was on the ice for the goal against.
STOP, BREAK IT DOWN:
26:15 is Gonchar's average time on the ice this year, putting in a lot of minutes again (6th in the entire NHL in icetime/game so far). Of that, he played 15:11 at even strength; matching up against the other team's top offensive players. In 7 games, he's been on the ice for 5 even strength goals scored by the other teams stars..This doesn't even factor in the fact that Sidney Crosby and the 1st line has been able to score 4 goals at even strength, giving them an aggregate of -1.
So basically, it's taking over 21 minutes for a goal to go in against the Penguins at even strength by the opponents strongest players. That's something I can live with.
Sergei Gonchar, not as bad defensively as his +/- or his reputation might lead you to believe.