With Alex Semin and Jeff Schultz no longer available to push around, some have chosen Marcus Johansson as their new favorite whipping boy.
#Caps top line would be SO much better if they had someone like Alex Burrows instead of Marcus Johansson
— B in DC (@B_in_DC) October 29, 2013
After finally learning how to shoot, Marcus Johansson has appears to have, once again, forgotten how to shoot. — Tyler Dean Duchaine (@tylerduchaine) October 29, 2013
When MJ90 is on the ice, it’s like a power play for the opponent. #Caps
— Capsaholic (@Capsaholic) October 29, 2013
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.