After two games on the left side of the Capitals’ top line, Marcus Johansson was demoted to the fourth unit for Thursday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
It’s far from a surprise, considering that the third-year forward was ineffective and turnover prone while skating with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, trends that resulted in his skating just one shift (50 seconds) in the third period of Washington’s 4-2 loss to Winnipeg earlier this week.
While Coach Adam Oates wants more out of the 22-year-old Swede, he knows the importance of working with Johansson so he can improve.
“He’s a young kid, he’s still learning the game, there’s little things,” Oates said. “He’s a natural center; we’ve got him on wing, so I’m sure some of his reads and decisions are based on that. We showed him a lot of video yesterday and just moved him today with [Mathieu Perreault] to see if they can get a little spark and help him out.”
Johansson, who is a minus-3 with one shot on goal in 28 minutes of ice time over two games, was critical of his lackluster start to the season.
“I think I got on my heels a little bit [against Winnipeg], and I don’t know what it is, whether it’s the new system, or whether it’s playing the left side,” Johansson said Wednesday. “I don’t know, but I didn’t play good [against Winnipeg] and I didn’t get better. That’s the main thing. I didn’t play good.”
Johansson’s speed is his strongest asset and the one that can be a true game-changer for the Capitals, but he’ll need to find his footing within Oates’s framework to make an impact and work his way back up to the top six. Matt Hendricks, who sits next to Johansson in the dressing room in Arlington, isn’t worried about his teammate bouncing back.
“Marcus is a big boy. He knows what he needs to do,” Hendricks said. “You could see [Wednesday] in practice, he was out there working hard, getting back to basics, moving his feet, pushing the pace. That’s how you get off stuff like that.”