Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
Starting out in the league, Marcus Johansson‘s reputation was for finesse and playmaking. Last season, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz asked him to shoot more. In turn, Johansson more than doubled his goal total from the previous year, cracking 20 goals for the first time in his career. Now it seems the 25-year-old Swede might have added another element to his game: his butt. In Washington’s 4-1 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday, Johansson’s presence in front of Carolina goalie Cam Ward led to two goals, including Nicklas Backstrom’s game winner.
“It’s part of scoring goals and getting goals for the team,” Johansson said Sunday. “Someone has to screen the goalie because they’re so good nowadays. You can’t just shoot and expect it to go in. If that’s what it takes to get goals, I’m happy to go there.”
On Backstrom’s tally, Johansson skated in front of Ward as the Capitals’ star pivot fired a puck towards the net. Though the shot was halfhearted, Ward never saw it as it deflected off a Hurricanes defender in front.
“You just to have good timing and try to take the ice away,” Johansson said. “As long as you’re in the way it helps.”
“He was more aggressive to the net tonight I think,” Backstrom said after the game when I asked him if he sensed a change in Johansson’s play. “That was a great screen.”
Later in the game, John Carlson gave the Caps a 3-1 lead with a power play goal. Once again, Johansson was responsible. He parked right in front Ward, making it impossible for the netminder to make the save.
In previous years, Johansson might have to share that spot at times with Troy Brouwer or Joel Ward. With those two gone, the job fell to Johansson exclusively.
“He compensates with quickness,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said of Johansson’s smaller stature. “He’s not as thick as Wardo, but he can get there. He’s all of 6’ 1’’ and he’s 200 pounds so that’s not really a small, small guy.”
“He’s so quick, he can get to the front of the net, he can get around people, he can get on top of people,” Trotz added. “When he’s getting inside the dots and inside the interior, that’s where he’s going to be most effective.”
Additional Reporting by Katie Brown.
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