The Washington Capitals acquired Marcus Johansson from the Seattle Kraken for Daniel Sprong, a 2022 fourth-round pick, and a 2023 sixth-round pick at the Trade Deadline. The move was advertised as one that would give the Capitals more depth heading into the playoffs, solidify the top three lines, and make the team stouter defensively.
But the early returns — keyword: early — are not great. In fact, they’re kinda bad. Through five games with the Capitals, Johansson has not recorded a point despite playing a majority of his time five-on-five with Alex Ovechkin (40:06) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (36:01) on the first line.
Laviolette was asked about what he thought of Johansson’s contributions so far after Capitals practice on Monday.
“I think if you go by numbers and stuff he’s been really good,” Laviolette said. “The production hasn’t been there. I just talked to him yesterday. I’d like to really see him put his foot down on the gas as far as production goes and try to put an eye on generating. Sometimes when you come in you’re trying to fit in. But defensively, he’s been good. He’s played a good brand of hockey. You just like to see him push a little bit more offensively.”
There are no stats, at least that I, somewhat-mediocre-RMNB-stats guy, can find that support Laviolette’s claim that Johansson has been “good” — though to be fair to Laviolette, he appears to use that adjective as filler a lot when asked about his players to the point where it’s not meaningful.
The Capitals are 2-3 and have been outscored 22-11 with Johansson in the lineup (4.4 goals per game allowed). While three of those five games came against top-tier NHL teams in St. Louis, Carolina, and Minnesota, Johansson’s presence was expected to sturdy the team against clubs like that, especially in the playoffs.
Laviolette has played Johansson primarily on his off-hand on the right wing. Eye test-wise, Johansson has struggled mightily there, especially with puck battles and offensive-zone entries (largely with passes to his teammates). Overall, he’s been a non-factor.
Then there are Johansson’s stats through five games. I’ll just go down the list.
3 shots blocked
Team’s underlying play 5v5 (score and venue adjusted) with Johansson on the ice
45.9-percent shot attempt for percentage
43.3-percent scoring chance for percentage
45.7-percent high-danger chance for percentage
2 goals for
5 goals against
70.6-percent offensive zone start percentage
Monday, Laviolette demoted Johansson to the third line during practice and the Swede will skate on the left wing with Lars Eller and TJ Oshie against the two-time defending champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, on Wednesday. The Lightning game will be another test for a struggling Johansson and the post-deadline Capitals as a team. Perhaps with a move to his natural wing, Johansson will be more effective.
The acquisitions of both Johansson and Johan Larsson have also come at a cost beyond the assets general manager Brian MacLellan gave back to the other teams. Now with the Capitals completely healthy, rookies Connor McMichael and Axel-Jonsson Fjallby have been reduced to healthy scratches. The two players brought speed and creativity to the lineup. The rookies were also very familiar with Laviolette’s system and how to best fit in with their linemates.
McMichael’s benching, in particular, has been curious as he had found another gear at center on the third line. He was arguably the Capitals’ best offensive contributor during his last 10 games. With McMichael on the ice, the Caps at five-on-five controlled 57.3-percent of the shot attempts, 65-percent of the expected goals, 61.9-percent of the scoring chances, and 68.8-percent of the high danger chances. Those were all team highs among the players that played in all 10 of those games.
One final note: Daniel Sprong has scored three times in six games with the Seattle Kraken and has 23 shots on goal.
Headline photo: Amanda Bowen/RMNB
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