When Coach Bruce Boudreau said he was sending a message to an un-named player on Tuesday by putting Mathieu Perreault on the second line, it wasn’t hard to read between the lines that the most likely recipient was Marcus Johansson.
Johansson appeared in five preseason games, skating with Alex Ovechkin on multiple occasions, but he failed to record a point and took just four shots on goal.
“I think the obvious answer is yeah we’d like to see more from him,” Boudreau said. “Maybe we expected too much from him at the start. He’s only a second year guy, even though he played great at the second half of the [2010-11] season. But I thought yesterday was his best practice and I thought today he worked really hard.”
The two had a talk, according to Johansson, and he knows that despite a slow start in the preseason it’s time for him to increase his intensity level now that games that matter are only three days away.
“It’s been alright. Not as good as I know I can play ,” Johansson said when asked to evaluate himself in the preseason. “Still, it is the preseason and it’s the first couple games and as I said, it’s the same for everybody. You’ve got to step your game up and really be on your toes and be on your best when [the regular season] starts.”
Johansson skated as the left wing on the top line in Ovechkin’s absence Wednesday, but Boudreau wouldn’t go so far as to say that means the young Swede is the odd man out when the opening-night lineup comes together.
The slow start in training camp brings to light the other potential concern with Johansson, who will need to make sure he doesn’t fall into the trap of the sophomore slump that seems to plague so many young NHLers.
“Keep talking to them and not let them get complacent,” Boudreau said of how to help them through it. “I still think Marcus is going to have a great year, let’s not kid ourselves. He’s going to be a very important part to our team. When we’re putting it together in the summer, he’s a very big part of our team. He just started slow and he’s now starting to play the way we thought he could.”