Since he took over as coach of the Capitals before last season, Barry Trotz has wanted Swedish forward Marcus Johansson to shoot more. But as Johansson has tallied four assists in two playoff games, Trotz won’t complain about his ability to distribute.
“Marcus is a very intelligent player,” Trotz said. “He’s got great speed. You know, we’ve always wanted him to shoot more. Right now, he’s feeling it, in terms of the apples, the assists that you get. He’s finding people open.”
Johansson has recorded a point on all three of Washington’s power-play goals in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the Philadelphia Flyers. His pass from the right half-wall set up John Carlson’s one-timer from the point in Game 1. In Game 2, Johansson screened goaltender Steve Mason for another goal from the point, and later in that game, he got the secondary assist on Alex Ovechkin’s goal.
Johansson is the first Capitals player to register consecutive multi-assist games in the postseason since Jaromir Jagr in Games 2 and 3 of the 2003 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Tampa Bay. His production per playoff game has been impressive compared to how he’s done in past postseasons:
“It’s just kind of the way it goes sometimes,” Johansson said. “It feels like sometimes you have a lot of chances and a lot of plays, but nothing happens. You know, now the power play’s been working, so it’s just the way it goes, I think.”
At even strength, Johansson is back on the wing after spending most of the second half of the season at center. Mike Richards has instead centered a third line of Johansson and Jason Chimera, and Johansson said switching back to wing has been a seamless transition. Johansson had 17 goals and 29 assists this season in 74 games played.
“You can’t really think about it, you just go out and play,” Johansson said. “It’s playoffs. I mean, you have just go out and do your work and do what you can do, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Johansson may shrug it off, but his linemate has seen a change in him that has led to increased point production.
“It’s his physical element,” Chimera said. “He’s physically engaged and he’s not shying away from that part of it. I think he’s really mentally engaged, too. You know, power play is a big thing for us and when he gets rolling like that, he’s up there with some of the better passers in the league. He’s sneaky good and it’s one of those things, he’s one of the key cogs on that first power-play unit.”
Here’s how the Capitals’ lineup looked during Monday’s morning skate:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Jason Chimera-Mike Richards-Marcus Johansson
Daniel Winnik-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nate Schmidt
Braden Holtby (starter)