TORONTO — The Marcus Johansson Era as a Bruin has not exactly gone swimmingly.
Just four games after he was obtained from the New Jersey Devils at the deadline, Johansson suffered a lung contusion on a hit from Carolina’s Michael Ferland that kept him out for three weeks. Then, with just a few games with his centerman Charlie Coyle under his belt, he was knocked low by an illness, forcing his to miss Games 2 and 3 against Toronto.
But Johansson returned for Game 4 and, while he’s known for his skill, he showed that he’s well-acquainted with playoff hockey and what’s required of him, delivering four hits and coming up with a big block late in the second period.
His time with the B’s has not gone as he would have scripted, but he feels he’s ready to contribute in a meaningful way.
“Hockey-wise, it’s been fine. Getting into this group has been real easy. But obviously it’s been frustrating with injuries and now being sick. At this time of year, there’s nothing worse,” Johansson after the B’s optional skate on Friday morning at Warrior Arena. “But it’s out of your control. You just have to stick with it and keep plugging along. Hopefully by now I’ve had my fair share of it. You can only look forward. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can only look forward to the next game. It’s fun to be a part of.”
The return of Johansson for Wednesday’s Game 4 allowed coach Bruce Cassidy to switch Danton Heinen up to the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and drop David Pastrnak to the David Krejci-Jake DeBrusk line. It was a move that very well may have won the B’s that game.
As for Johansson and his fit on the third line with Coyle and and David Backes, Cassidy believes they can get better.
“His energy I thought was good. Chemistry, we’re going to find out,” said Cassidy. “I think it’s there at times and other times times they got hemmed in. I don’t know if that’s a chemistry issue or just not winning enough pucks and staying alive in the O-zone. That’s part of it for that group. Whoever’s been on the right side, whether it’s Backes or (Chris) Wagner, I think that’s where they can be better, hanging on to puck in the O-zone. I think the rush game is good. We saw that earlier in the series with Marcus and he’ll certainly help us on the power-play. It’s just a matter of keeping pucks alive in he O-zone.”
For his part, Johansson has liked his pairing with Coyle.
“I think we’ve played well since we got put together. Charlie is an unbelievable player and he makes unbelievable plays both offensively and defensively. He’s easy to play with and he’s fun to play with,” said Johansson, who saw time on both the top two lines before settling in with the East Weymouth native.
“(Coyle) has been good the whole time he’s been here, but maybe he’s taken another step (in the playoffs). The intensity obviously goes up in the playoffs and he’s a big, strong guy. I think it just suits him really well. So far he’s shown that. He’s been huge for us in every game.”
As for the block that knocked him out of Game 4 briefly, well, that’s just playoff hockey.
“You don’t really thing when you do that. It’s part of the game,” said Johansson. “It ended up being a two-goal (win) but for a while it was a one-goal game and those small things can make a big difference when it comes down to it. I think every guy in here is willing to pay the price and willing to do whatever it takes to get the win.”