Photo credit: Chris Gordon
For the Capitals, there’s a lot to keep track of right now. We’ve noticed Alex Ovechkin’s scoring slump, a whole lotta penalties, and some bad breaks for the goalies. One thing we haven’t noticed is Marcus Johansson, and that’s a big problem too.
In 2011-2012, Johansson scored 14 goals and 32 assists, shooting a pretty boss 15.6%. That was enough to make him the team’s third best scorer behind the Alexes, a crucial piece of a lean team.
Not so much this year. Through seven games, Johansson’s stat line looks like this: 0, 0, 0%.
“He’s a young kid, he’s still learning the game,” coach Adam Oates said to the Washington Post. “He’s a natural center; we’ve got him on wing.”
Matt Hendricks agrees, telling the Washington Times that when Johansson “is playing his best hockey he’s playing the game fast. . . winning battles to pucks, and when he does he seems to catch those defenders in bad positions and he can skate right around them, right by them and get those wrap-around goals that we’ve seen him score and set up great plays that way.”
And for all that, he’s still without a point.
But so what? Lots of players are pointless so early in the season, but Johansson’s boxcar stats hint at real trouble below. Let’s take a look at how Johansson is playing using #fancystats and try not to get pulled into the vacuum of suck.
While Marcus is on the ice, the Caps are shooting 0.00%. Every shot fails. Though with so few games played, it’s kind of okay (if a bit surprising). What’s not okay is the paucity of shots the Caps fire while Johansson is playing. He’s last place among Caps forwards with a -20.07 Corsi rating.
Whenever Marcus hits the ice, way more pucks are headed towards Washington’s net than the other guy’s. It’s a really wretched number, but maybe it’s that way because Marcus Johansson is getting tough assignments against quality competition.
Robert Vollman of Hockey Abstract puts together player usage charts that visualize how poorly Marcus is doing compared to what he’s up against.
Note: Ignore Hamrlik; he’s only been in 3 games.
The bottom-right quadrant of the chart means sheltered. Marcus is taking most of his zone starts in the offensive zone (a team-high 58.5%) and he’s playing against weaker talent than everyone, and yet he’s still got the worst possession numbers among all forwards. His circle is big and red because his puck possession is way negative (i.e. more pucks going towards the Caps net).
In short: despite having the cushiest gig on the team– playing meh players real close to their net– Johansson is still dead last when it comes to puck possession.
When players go through scoring droughts, they’re usually the main ones who suffer. But when it’s an issue of basic puck possession like with Marcus Johansson, every player sharing the ice with him takes a beating. Using hockeyanalysis.com’s With You/Without You comparison, we can see the difference in how Capitals perform depending on if Johansson is with them.
This table shows how much time MJ90 shares with each player (minimum of 10 minutes), and how much worse each player does during that time.
Every skater sharing the ice with Johansson does worse during that time. Not one saw the ice tilt better when playing with him.
It’s a total mess, and I’m baffled by it. While I’ve never been too keen on Marcus Johansson, these numbers are atrocious.
A year ago, some folks were saying Johansson had arrived, that the Capitals have finally found their second-line center. His performance in 2013 not only belies that argument, it gives doubt that he’s ready for any workload at the NHL level.
At the top of this article, I asked what is wrong with Marcus Johansson, but I really have no idea. All I have is evidence that there is something wrong and the beginnings of a peptic ulcer whenever his name shows up in the line combos.
Right now, the only thing I can think of to improve the situation would be to change the colors and logo on his jersey.
Photo credit: Chris Gordon. Stats from behindthenet.ca and hockeyanalysis.com. Special thanks to Robert Vollman of hockeyabstract.com for the player usage chart.