It’s impossible to know precisely how a young player will perform in their first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. While many have experienced postseason or tournament intensity in various forms, NHL playoffs can offer an entirely different set of features from intensity on ice to media pressure and so on.
For Marcus Johansson, though, his natural progression and the way his confidence rose over the course of the regular season appears to have helped him start his first playoff appearance with the Capitals in steady fashion.
After three games of creating scoring chances and playing a catalyst roll on the third line, Johansson tallied a pair of goals in Game 4 as part of Washington’s comeback in that contest. They were goals that came as a direct result of his willingness to go to high-traffic areas, a quality the Capitals needed with Mike Knuble out of the lineup.
“I don’t know if I expected him to score Mike Knuble-esque goals,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said, “but he’s been getting so close getting the chances I thought that he was going to get a good chance to score.”
Over the course of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal, the Rangers have occasionally tried to out-wheel the quick-footed Johansson and when that fails, try to rough him up. None of it seems to faze him and the 20-year-old Swede’s composure doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“He’s getting stronger, his feet are wet now and I think he’s feeling a little more comfortable,” Matt Hendricks said. “His skating ability is tremendous and he’s able to get himself out of trouble if he ever gets in it because of that. I think he’s been very steady and I think he’s getting better as the series goes on, and not just because of his goals.”
Said Jason Arnott: “Last game was huge for him but he’s been fantastic all over the ice, all situations. He’s just been really calm and collected in every game.”
While teammates cite Johansson’s maturity and poise at times he simply looks like what he is, a young player excited by the possibilities of the playoffs. A kid in a candy store perhaps.
“I’m enjoying every minute I get to be on the ice,” Johansson said, “Whether it’s practice or it’s a game. We’re having a lot of fun as a team.”