As Group A ran through drills Monday morning at KCI, the unfortunate place to be seemed in whatever net Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin were skating toward. Time and time again, Johansson threaded passes to Ovechkin, who finished with a shot that eluded Philipp Grubauer or Michal Neuvirth on most occasions.
It’s impossible not to notice the line combinations that Coach Bruce Boudreau assembled for the start of camp, particularly the top two lines of Group A, even if it’s only the very start of formal practices for the 2011-12 season.
The top lines for Group A were Ovechkin-Johansson-Knuble and Laich-Backstrom-Semin. Those configurations appeared from time to time last season, but they were hardly the most common setup.
On Monday, Boudreau offered some insight on why he opted to put the second-year center with the franchise left wing.
“I just thought a little more speed,” Boudreau said. “At this stage, Alex Semin always seems to have the rookie with him to start the year.”
When top-line center Nicklas Backstrom fractured his thumb last season, Boudreau put then-rookie Johansson alongside Ovechkin. There were some growing pains as Johansson adjusted to having such a prominent linemate, but the more time they spent together, the better the pair worked.
“Marcus played so well at the end of the year and I thought he had good chemistry with Alex at the end of the year, so we just wanted to see how much he grew over the summer,” Boudreau continued. “Not physically or anything, but mentally having that year under his belt. I thought they made a couple pretty good plays out there today, this morning. It will be interesting to see how they play together.”