When the Washington Capitals series opens up against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marcus Johansson will be the 6th or seventh name mentioned on the Capitals roster behind Brayden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, Justin Williams, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, but that doesn’t diminish his importance to his team.
When the Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six they got over the hump. The albatross is gone. The choking mentions are gone forever, even though they haven’t been relative in the Barry Trotz era, now they are a real Cup contender in everybody’s eyes. The regular season domination was almost insignificant until they got past their first hurdle. Now that they have they are not looking too far ahead.
“I don’t know if relief is the right word. Maybe accomplishment,” said Oshie, after dispatching the Flyers. “A couple of guys in our lineup are depth guys and they really make a difference.”
Backstrom leads the team in playoff points and Johansson and Carlson are next with six. Johansson has become a presence in front of the net. He’s been able to become a top power play performer. The amazing part is he only has 9 shots on goal and yet he’s contributing in a big way to a team full of shooters.
The Capitals knew what they were doing back in 2009 when they drafted him 24th overall. The Capitals now have the best European scouting. The Red Wings used to hold that title but look at the European players and the quality of them that the Caps continue to draft and you would be hard pressed to find an organization who’s better in this arena.
“We can win games in many different ways,” said Johansson. “You have to know when and when not to take your chances in a game like this (Game 6). Obviously there’s a lot on the line.”
Not wanting to talk about himself the Swedish forward decided to talk about his Holtby who has been spectacular all year and he never had a bad game in the first round.
“He didn’t. It feels like he never does,” Johansson added. “He’s making save after save when sometimes it looks like they;re going to score. It’s such a good feeling as a team to have him back there. To know he can bail you out.
The Capitals are virtually unbeatable if they lead after two. The Penguins are very strong in that area too but Matt Murray has never played in the NHL playoffs before. So far he’s been terrific but now Washington has a lot more firepower than the Rangers did. It has to be a boost for players to know they have a lockdown goalie.
“Absolutely, and we’ve learned to play around him and that’s a big part of it,” Johansson stated.
The Penguins have a dynamic puck moving team offensively and defensively. This series in no longer Crosby vs. Ovechkin. It’s a lot more than that. The Capitals can match that and they’re bigger. In the end I think the Capitals will win the series in 7. Their depth and goaltending should pull them through.