There’s a technical term for when it looks like Marcus Johansson is hitting the accelerate button on a video game controller. Let’s call that MJ90 beast mode – when opponents just can’t keep up with the 21-year-old Capitals center and he manages to create something out of it.
Last week against the Lightning he scored on a gorgeous wraparound goal and drew a couple penalties. On Saturday in the Caps’ 2-1 victory over the Senators, the wraparound returned, as Johansson tucked the puck between goalie Alex Auld and the left post.
“That’s two wraparound [goals] for him and I told him on the bench, ‘You don’t see those anymore,’ ” right wing Mike Knuble said. “He’s getting that puck to the net and that’s how you score goals.”
It was a thing of beauty, though Johansson didn’t think much of it. A natural playmaker, he was trying to set up Alexander Semin.
“I was looking for Sasha in the middle, but I couldn’t find him and I just tried to get it to the net,” Johansson said. “Sometimes it works.”
It worked, all right, much to the delight of Bruce Boudreau, who made Johansson a healthy scratch for the season opener to send him a message about improving.
“He was really good. Last two games he’s been great and that helps us a lot,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Hopefully he can keep going.”
Johansson enjoyed a breakout rookie season with 13 goals and 14 assists, but he’s still something of a new element for many opponents.
“I’m sure the book is not all out there on him. That’s his game: He gets the puck and he goes,” Knuble said. “And he’s going to go outside and put guys in trouble, get them back on their heels because of his speed.”
Blazing speed is an asset Johansson knows how to harness perhaps better than any other part of his game. He might be the best-looking skater on the team and can tie up opponents with that ability.
“He’s pretty fast,” his coach said. “If teams haven’t noticed, they will notice him. He’s got tremendous speed. He does a great job with that.”
The wraparound move has produced two goals in two tries for Johansson, but Boudreau might be right: Teams will notice, and adjust.
“Then you start dishing the puck off,” Boudreau said. “Guys will be cheating, and he should be able to take advantage of it either way.”