Fewer faceoffs not a sign of injury, says Johnson

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TAMPA — Tyler Johnson took 1,103 faceoffs this season. Only one other Lightning skater took more.

Yet in the last three games of the Stanley Cup Final, he’s taken a grand total of…

One.

And none in the last two games.

This, of course, has led to speculation that Johnson’s dealing with some type of injury preventing him from taking draws — a notion he shot down on Thursday in speaking with the media.

“[Ondrej Palat] beat me in practice, and he’s just better than me,” Johnson explained. “I’ve never been that good at faceoffs, so it’s alright.”

Given Tampa Bay’s series-long subterfuge regarding player health (see: Bishop, Ben), it’s not surprising to hear Johnson come up with an alternate reason as to why he’s not in the faceoff circle. While there’s some merit to his claim of not being great at it — he was at 48.7 percent during the year, the lowest winning percentage among the Bolts’ leaders — it’s a tough sell claiming Palat is far superior; the Czech forward took a grand total of 35 draws this year and only won 10 of them, a 28.6 percent success rate.

(In Game 4, Palat lost 10 of 14 draws for a 29 percent success rate. So it’s not like he’s gotten significantly better at this as the playoffs progressed.)

Chances are we’ll find out what’s ailing Johnson and the rest of his mates once the series is done. But for now, the only thing he’ll say about injuries is that all players probably have them.

“I think everyone’s banged up,” he explained. “When you play this long — I think it’s 104 games already — when you’re doing that you’re going to be bumped up a little bit but it doesn’t matter right now.

“It’s the Stanley Cup.”