- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2011

You won’t catch Marcus Johansson with stars in his eyes. Not even when he was the first-line center through most of training camp, skating with arguably the best player in the world.

“It’s fun, obviously,” he said. “It’s fun to play up there; you get a lot of ice time. You got to prove something, too.”

But through the second half of the preseason, the Washington Capitals center proved he’s still 20 years old. It was so evident to coach Bruce Boudreau that he replaced Johansson on the top line in the exhibition finale and demoted him during practice this week.

That was a message to Johansson, something Boudreau alluded to. But now it’s up to him to show that his impressive rookie campaign wasn’t just a fluke.

“I’m just going to try to play the same game I did last year,” Johansson said. “I think that’s what got me here, and I think I’ve got to keep playing how I always played.”

Johansson was so good in 2010’s training camp that he forced the Caps to keep him around. He went through some regular-season growing pains but finished with 13 goals and 14 assists.

And while his preseason was “so and so” in Johansson’s words, Boudreau knows he needs to temper his expectations.

“I think the obvious answer is yeah, we’d like to see more from him. But maybe we expected too much from him at the start,” Boudreau said. “He’s only a second-year guy — even though he played great in the second half of the season.”

Johansson’s development seemingly was fast-tracked by his first season in the NHL, so much so that the team anticipated him sliding into the second-line center spot held by Jason Arnott after the trade deadline.

Having a year to get used to the speed and grind of the NHL did help the Swede adjust quicker than expected.

“I think you know more what to expect [this year],” Johansson said. “You’re going to get tired along the way, but you’ve got to find a way to stay as fresh as possible the whole year.”

Johansson tired a bit last year, but he was such a pleasant surprise that perhaps lofty expectations have put him in line to fall short. Being the first-line center for much of the preseason represented an intriguing opportunity for Johansson to skate with left wing Alex Ovechkin.

But after getting off to what Boudreau called a slow start, Johansson’s goal is to prevent a sophomore slump and fill the kind of role Washington envisioned for him.

“It’s happened a lot to a lot of individuals. I think you’ve just got to keep talking to them and not let them get complacent,” Boudreau said. “I still think Marcus is going to have a great year. Let’s not kid ourselves — he’s going to be a very important part to our team.”

Recent practices have shown Boudreau what he wanted to see out of Johansson, who realizes he needs to find another gear beginning Saturday night with the season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.

“It’s not as good as I know I can play,” Johansson said. “You’ve just got to step your game up and really be on your toes and be on your best now when it starts.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide