Having patrolled the Pittsburgh Penguins blue line for the last five years Sergei Gonchar’s time with the Penguins didn’t start out great as many booed him his first year, mainly because his productivity didn’t equal his salary. By the time Gonchar’s five years were all said and done, Gonchar was a hero and a fan favorite. Losing Gonchar to the Ottawa Senators has left many fans wondering how on earth could the Penguins possibly replace such a talent.
Alex Goligoski, 10 years Gonchar’s junior is ready to take over and Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma is ready to let him. The last two Penguin pre-season games have shown that young Alex Goligoski is ready for prime time as the Penguins premiere offensive defenseman. Goligoski Showed promise last season playing in his first full season as a starting defenseman for the Penguins and got off to a fantastic start then part way through the season he was hampered by a groin injury and never seemed to return to form.
Last year of the 6 starting defensemen for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Goligoski finished second in overall scoring, second in goal scoring, number one in shooting percentage and number one in plus/minus. No matter how you look at it, that is pretty good for his first full season considering he missed 13 games with a groin injury. For those of you diehard Gonchar supporters… Gonchar had the worst plus/minus.
Anyone who had the ability to watch the last two preseason games live or online has seen that this kid is ready. Goligoski looked like he was given free reign by Coach Bylsma as he carried the puck freely up ice and many times deep into the offensive zone setting up many great plays. On Friday night against Chicago he lead the Penguins in scoring with a goal and an assist, just to duplicate that effort again on Sunday against Detroit.
Goligoski will not be the greatest defensive defenseman on the Penguins by a long shot but his skating, passing and shooting skills will allow him to not just fill Gonchar’s worn shoes, but replace them with brand new ones. I have no doubt if he is given the chance halfway through the season Pens fans will be saying Gonch who? Goligoski is no longer the star struck kid who over thought everything last year, he has shown coach Bylsma this preseason that he can take control of the game and be a dominant factor. If those preseason games were any indication this season should be a fun ride.