The Capitals continued to stick up for each other this preseason, with several players defending their teammates in a 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. You can read more about the all-for-one attitude in the story for Saturday's hard-copy edition.
One of the most noticeable statistics in this latest exhibition victory, though, was a negative one: rookie center Marcus Johansson won none of the 10 faceoffs he took against the Blue Jackets.
For the most part in training camp and the preseason Johansson has stood out for good reasons. He's transitioned smoothly to playing with NHL regulars, is adjusting well to the smaller ice surface, he possesses natural defensive instincts and has a fluid skating style. Friday, he thwarted several Columbus scoring chances by picking off passes or intercepting shots in the defensive zone. With the Capitals on the penalty kill with about eight minutes left in the third, Johansson scooped up the puck, skated end to end and wound up drawing a penalty to negate the Blue Jackets' power play.
But despite all of the positives, he has consistently struggled with faceoffs winning just 15 of the 47 draws (31.6 percent) he's taken through five exhibition games.
"I had a tough day today with faceoffs," Johansson said following Friday's contest. "It didn't bounce my way at all. I tried everything. It's a different league and they're all really good at faceoffs so it's a little different than back home. I just tried to figure it out and solve situations differently, no matter who I'm taking a faceoff against. I had a really tough day but I just have to keep trying."
When he first entered the NHL, Nicklas Backstrom, who won 67 percent of his draws (12 of 18) against Columbus, also had to work on his faceoff skills. During his rookie season, Backstrom won 46.3 percent of his draws but by the end of 2009-10 he was winning nearly half (49.9 percent) of the faceoffs he took.
Considering how Johansson has adapted to everything else the Capitals have thrown at him thus far, Coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't doubt that the 20-year-old can overcome the faceoff hurdle.
"I watched the last one [Johansson took against Columbus] pretty intently because he has no confidence at that right now," Boudreau said. "He's asking Brooks [Laich] and other guys to take them. If I recall, Nicky struggled when he first came over. I don't know what other Swedes are like; I wonder if it's a common theme that they don't work on it or if the referees drop the puck differently there or their thought process is different over there for what they have to do on faceoffs -- but he's picked up everything else. He's going to pick this up."
Other notes and quotes:
-- Eric Fehr, who is hoping to build on his career-best season from 2009-10, called the two goals he tallied tonight "garbage goals" but as Boudreau pointed out, "You get 50 of them and a lot of people are going to pay you a lot of money. Garbage or whatever."
-- Matt Hendricks was held out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons, but Boudreau said if it had been a regular season game he would have likely returned.
-- "They were a little rusty out there," Boudreau said about the top line of Alex Ovechkin-Backstrom-Mike Knuble. Boudreau added the linemates will get another game under their belts on Sunday in the preseason finale against Nashville at 12:30 p.m.
-- In other news, TSN is reporting that former Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.