Marcus Johansson is no passenger


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

With Alex Semin and Jeff Schultz no longer available to push around, some have chosen Marcus Johansson as their new favorite whipping boy.

Part of the high expectations come from Johansson skating almost 84 percent of his even-strength minutes with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. And so far, I’d argue the young Swede has done his part.

Johansson has an assist on seven of Ovechkin’s 10 goals, and five of those are the primary helpers. In fact, all seven of his even-strength assists so far this year have been the primary setup pass, which already equals his total from last year. Overall, his 10 assists are good for fourth in the league.

Perhaps even more important, it does not appear he is a passenger on the top line anymore. For example, ignoring score effects and lead-protecting situations, the Capitals have taken 47.8 percent of the shot attempts with Johansson on the ice. When those same linemates skate without Johansson, that number drops to 36.4 percent. That means superstars Ovechkin and Backstrom actually direct less shots at net when their “third wheel” is on the bench. Small sample size? Perhaps, but last season it was 49 percent vs. 47 percent, so we are indeed seeing a trend in the right direction.

It isn’t easy to meet the expectations that comes along with being a first-round pick. And it certainly isn’t helped when you are sharing ice time with two of the league’s best players. But Johansson has shown that he is maturing into the perfect complement player for Washington’s top line — especially if Ovechkin is on the sidelines for any length of time.

greenberg
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Katie Carrera · October 31, 2013