Baby Steps for Johansson

On Frozen Blog

Just nine games into his NHL career, Marcus Johansson is going through on the job training.  Johansson has just one point through nine NHL games and is a -3 thus far.  But the last two games Johansson has played against the Thrashers and Sabres have been by far his best of the season.  Having watched each of his first nine games in the NHL, Johansson clearly is still becoming acclimated with the speed of the game and the size of NHL defenders.  He has looked timid, nervous, and uncomfortable on the ice for the most part.  Johansson has opened up the last two games, showing off his skating ability and hands that have been the catalyst for the comparison to Nick Backstrom.   

Bruce Boudreau rewarded Johansson with a game on the top line last night against the Buffalo Sabres.  Suffice to say hindsight is always 20/20, I had trouble getting on board with this decision.  This isn’t a knock against Johansson in anyway.  But my feeling is that when a young centerman with just nine games under is belt is teamed up with a player of Ovechkin’s caliber, it can cause the player to be overly occupied with trying to get the puck to Ovechkin.  Johansson is still developing his patience with the puck.  The last thing he needs is the additional obligation of getting the puck to Ovechkin whenever he has the chance.  In multiple occasions against the Sabres it looked as though Johansson rushed his decisions to get the puck to Ovechkin when other options would have been better suited.  Again, this is part of the growing process, but I believe Johansson is better served on the second line with Laich and combination of Semin and Knuble.

Would Johansson be better served to have an apprenticeship in the AHL?

The Mathieu Perreault bandwagon would certain answer this question with a resounding yes.  I would argue that despite the lack of NHL experience Johansson has, the team is still winning.  The Capitals are getting scoring from all four of their lines.  The Capitals’ fourth line of Chimera, Bradley, and Steckel was without question the best line last night against Buffalo.  The point is, Johansson’s lack of NHL experience isn’t becoming a road block for the Caps.  They are first in the Eastern Conference at 14-4-1, and are showing no signs of slowing down. 

The Capitals should keep Johansson with the team.  Recall the slow start Nicklas Backstrom had in his first year in the NHL.  It wasn’t until an overtime game winning goal on Thanksgiving day against the Flyers that Backstrom really took flight as an NHL center.  All signs point to Johansson having the same fortune.  Will he be the caliber of player as Backstrom?  Let’s not set the bar that high.  But Johansson is beginning to show signs that he can be a fantastic center for the Captials for many years to come.

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About the Author: Jeremy is a life time hockey fan currently living in Washington DC. Jeremy also runs a Capitals blog called The Nation's Capitals where he frequently posts blogs about the state of the Caps. His other interests include music and politics. Jeremy has a degree in Political Science. Being from DC, politics kind of comes with the territory.

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  1. AB says:

    I’m confused by the Perreault bandwagon. They claim they want more defense, but they want Perreault, who in pre-season was even in +/- where MarJo was +5 (I think?). If you look at the really good defensive teams, it’s a full-team effort. Even the forwards are defense-first, which is why such teams more often than not struggle to score. If you want better team D, how do you justify Perreault over Johansson?

    Thinking about the result later, I like the line shuffle and I’m inclined to keep it for the time being, for one major reason-it exposes Ovi’s lack of offensive production without turning the line into a serious liability. When Ovi is with Backstrom and Semin, he’s a side beneficiary, but he’s not carrying a lot of that load. He doesn’t have to shoot when they’re on the ice. Those two are covering for his slow start. By pairing them with Laich, you still get that production as a whole, but it’s obvious that Ovi’s not at his best. Make him work a little more while Johansson learns. We’ll be fine while that gels, and while it does, MarJo’s defensive instincts will keep that line from getting burned too badly.

    Now is the time to expose weaknesses in the caps’ game and fix them, and Johannson is very useful for that while shoring up his own game in the process. It’s a luxury that the Caps can still win consistently while tinkering with their game.

    • Great points! I’m with you in that the defensive argument for Perreault doesn’t hold water. Johansson has been good defensively and his +/- will show that once his offensive game comes around. Also we are yet to see Perreault produce over an extended period of time. Granted he only gets an NHL sweater every once ina while, but he played over 20 games with the Caps last year and over the course of them time was a marginal point producer.

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  3. Tinner says:

    One thing MP brings to the table is a tasmanian devil like forcheck and the ability to draw penalties. He is smallish but he sticks his nose into dirty areas and is a less fiesty Dino Ciccarelli in that aspect.

    The kid brings instant energy and is a sparkplug. I think BOTH of these guys should be in the lineup..

    Is MP any WORSE defensively than Flash? No. I believe he is better and its his natural position. Topped with his desire to go into dirty areas and draw penalties he should have a roster spot in place of the BUTTERY SOFT and overpaid Flash.

    So I don’t see it as a battle between MP and MJ. It should be either of those guys against Flash and they would win out easily in my book.

    We’d also free up some cap space in the event we want to make a trade earlier in the season rather than later. In fact I’d trade Flash for a rental depth physical dman on the last year of his contract (I’d have to look around possible candidates) and promote MP.

    BAM!

    • Jeremy Scriven says:

      Don’t get me started on Fleischmann. I’m still trying to figure out why McPhee re-signed him. He is horrible in the face off dot. He can’t defend worth anything, and he gets no power play time. What exactly is he contributing? He occasionally scores a timely goal, which all well and good, but overall he is a ghost on the ice. I would have no trouble trading at any point this season.

      • Tinner says:

        Could not agree more. I do think McPhee resigned him just b/c he didn’t want a tradeable asset to walk away for nothing. Thats the best I got…

        So MJ>MP>Flashmeister

        The sooner Flash is shipped out the better.

        Again the battle IMO shouldn’t be about MJ vs MP. These players are not mutually exclusive when it comes to the roster.

        • Jeremy Scriven says:

          Caps need to give MJ90 his minutes so they know what they will need at the deadline. If MJ90 gets quality minutes and can contribute, Flash is instantly more tradeable. Ideally for a legit 2nd line center or a defensive depth. Then MJ90 can find a home on either of the 3 lines playing center.

  4. CatsoverCaps says:

    Caps def. need a little more defensive depth and hope that Bruce Boudreau’s fatass doesn’t work Neuvirth to an early grave before the playoffs.

  5. Fred Poulin says:

    The Caps should trade Fleischmann to the Canucks for Kevin Bieksa! He is a physical d-man who can contribute offensively and he is a right-handed shooter.

    • Jeremy Scriven says:

      I would take that trade in a second. I’m not sure that is a good deal for the Canucks though:-)