Johansson, Marchand attempt to move on from elbowing incident

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Marcus Johansson‘s brief time with the New Jersey Devils was ultimately derailed by injuries, the most significant of which was a concussion that cut his 2017-18 season down to just 29 games.

He suffered that concussion when Brad Marchand elbowed him in the head back on Jan. 23, 2018, resulting in Marchand being suspended for five games. It was one of the nine times in Marchand’s career that he had been fined or suspended for an on-ice incident.

Later in the season Johansson had some pretty harsh words for the play, Marchand, and the length of the suspension.

Just a quick refresher for you:

“It was stupid. There’s nothing else to say about it. I think there was no point in doing that,” he told reporters after Monday’s practice. “There was no hockey play whatsoever there. It’s sad to see that there are still guys out there trying to hurt other guys… It’s sad. It’s stupid. I hope it doesn’t come to him ending someone else’s career before it’s enough. It’s not why we play the game.

“I think there are always situations where you try to hit someone, you try to make a hockey play and things go wrong. Then there are plays like this where I think it’s got nothing to do with hockey. It’s sad to see. I guess I’m unfortunate to be on the receiving end of that.”

This all relevant now because on Monday the Bruins, who still employ Brad Marchand, acquired Johansson from the Devils in an effort to bolster their scoring depth and make a potential run at the Stanley Cup.

Given the history between the two players it was definitely one of the most interesting trades of the day, and on Tuesday Johansson addressed the elephant in the room that is that history.

Johansson said, via Matt Porter of the Boston Globe, that he received a call from Marchand shortly after the trade along with an apology for the hit.

Johansson said “it was great” and, basically, “these things happen,” and he just wants to put it all behind him.

“Most teams you have guys you’ve bumped heads with a little bit,” Johansson said. “For me, it’s something I’ve put behind me. I’m happy that I’m just playing hockey right now. I’ve just heard great things about Marchy, that he’s a great guy and a great teammate, and he’s a hell of a hockey player.”

So, there is that.

Given the impact the play had on Johansson’s career and life and how strong his emotions were in the aftermath it’s hard to imagine those feelings have just simply gone away in the blink of an eye. He is human, and humans hold grudges against people that have wronged them either physically or emotionally. But he is also correct that if you play enough NHL games on enough NHL teams you are probably going to have a teammate that you have had some sort of on-ice issue with in the past.

Your only choice at that point is try and put it behind you as best you can and work together toward your common goal.

Johansson, now fully healthy, has been on a roll over the past month and joins the Bruins riding a 13-game stretch where he has recorded 12 points. That is exactly the type of secondary scoring his new team needs.

Given how top-heavy the Bruins’ lineup has been this season, especially at forward, he and Charlie Coyle could prove to be huge additions for a Bruins team that has very quietly climbed near the top of the NHL standings.

More: Bruins reunite Johansson with his buddy Marchand

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Cory Schneider posts first win in 2018 as Devils claw back into series

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After allowing 10 goals in the first two games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New Jersey Devils needed another look between the pipes.

Enter an old friend.

Cory Schneider‘s season can best be summed up as forgettable.

His less than stellar 2016-17 campaign tagged along into the current season and Schneider eventually lost his starting role to Keith Kinkaid. Schneider missed the whole month of February due to a groin injury and before Monday, hadn’t won a start since Dec. 27, 2017, a span of 12 starts without a W.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

But after Keith Kinkaid was pulled 33 minutes into a 5-3 defeat on Saturday, Schneider settled in and stopped all 10 shots he faced in relief. With the Devils needing a spark after falling down 2-0 in the series as it was shifting back to Jersey, Schneider was given his chance to assume to the reigns he previously held.

Some timely extra saves were helpful — Schneider made 34 of them — as the Devils tightened up defensively in 5-2 win to pull themselves back into the series, which sits at 2-1 in favor of the Lightning.

Taylor Hall helped out on offense, scoring his second of the playoffs and adding two assists in the win.

The Devils also got a boost with the return of Marcus Johansson, who missed 37 games with a concussion after an elbow from Brad Marchand.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Marcus Johansson on Brad Marchand elbow: ‘There was no point in doing that’

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It’s been two months since Marcus Johansson last played for the New Jersey Devils. On Jan. 23, he suffered a concussion after taking an elbow to the head from Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.

In that time Marchand has attended the NHL All-Star Game and recorded 30 points in 22 games while helping the Bruins move up the Eastern Conference standings. Johansson didn’t begin skating again until March 6 when he took the ice on his own.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Marchand was suspended five games and Johansson suffered a second concussion of the season. The Devils forward still isn’t medically cleared to play and has a few more hurdles to clear, according to head coach John Hynes.

Johansson has missed 28 games and on Monday he expressed his disappointment with the hit and Marchand’s suspension.

“It was stupid. There’s nothing else to say about it. I think there was no point in doing that,” he told reporters after Monday’s practice. “There was no hockey play whatsoever there. It’s sad to see that there are still guys out there trying to hurt other guys… It’s sad. It’s stupid. I hope it doesn’t come to him ending someone else’s career before it’s enough. It’s not why we play the game.

“I think there are always situations where you try to hit someone, you try to make a hockey play and things go wrong. Then there are plays like this where I think it’s got nothing to do with hockey. It’s sad to see. I guess I’m unfortunate to be on the receiving end of that.”

The five-game suspension wasn’t enough, added Johansson, who referenced Marchand’s long history with the Department of Player Safety. But that’s all in the past now and there are more important matters to focus on.

“[I’m] trying to put that behind me,” he said. “I just want to get back to feeling normal again. That’s all I can do.”

More: Why Brad Marchand is NHL’s most frustrating player

Stick-tap Amanda Stein for the audio

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Capitals’ biggest question: Is this finally the year?

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Of the 12 NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup, there may not be a more optimistic one heading into 2015-16 than the Washington Capitals. 

Here’s why:

— Alex Ovechkin just won his third straight Rocket Richard Trophy. At 29, he remains the NHL’s most dangerous goal-scorer. On top of that, the Caps appear to have found the right coach for the Russian superstar in Barry Trotz.

— The Caps also appear to have found a second-line center in young Evgeny Kuznetsov. If the 23-year-old continues to progress — and there’s no good reason he shouldn’t — Washington could have quite the 1-2 combo at center in Nicklas Backstrom and Kuznetsov.

— Defenseman John Carlson is emerging as one of the top blue-liners in the NHL. And at 25, he may get even better.

— Goalie Braden Holtby continues to post strong numbers. His .923 save percentage last season was tied with Pekka Rinne and one point better than Tuukka Rask.

Now throw in the additions of veterans T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to go with youngsters Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson, and what emerges is a roster where a glaring weakness is pretty tough to find.

OK, sure, there are concerns. Like maybe the Caps will miss Mike Green more than they think. Ditto for Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and/or Eric Fehr. If Washington’s young players don’t step up next season, it’s hard to picture this team hoisting the Cup.

But that’s true of any team, really.

“I’d say the next three or four years is the window,” GM Brian MacLellan said in May.

Given how quickly the landscape of a young man’s league can change, it may turn out to be a shorter window than that.

The Caps have a real opportunity in 2015-16. Can they finally get it done?

Related: Green calls this year’s Caps ‘the best team we’ve had overall’

It’s Washington Capitals day at PHT

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For the most part, Washington’s ’14-15 campaign was a success.

Under new head coach Barry Trotz, the Caps had 45 wins, 101 points, got back into the playoffs and won a series for the first time in three years.

All good things.

But in the end, success was fleeting. Once again, Washington lost a Game 7 to the Rangers — for the third time in four seasons — and, once again, Washington failed to get past Round 2 (for the 17th straight year). That rekindled talk of the Caps’ inability to come through in the clutch and, subsequently, talk of Alex Ovechkin’s inability to come through in the clutch.

In the end, though, you’d have to say the positives in Washington outweighed the negatives, thanks in large part to quality individual efforts.

Ovechkin had his highest goalscoring season in six years, netting 53 en route to winning the Maurice Richard Trophy. No. 1 goalie Braden Holtby posted career-highs across the board and narrowly missed out on being a Vezina finalist. John Carlson finished fifth in the NHL in d-man scoring, and top-10 in Norris voting.

Combine those with the growth shown by youngsters Evgeni Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, and the year — even though it ended in disappointment — could be seen as a stepping stone to a brighter ’15-16.

Off-season recap

GM Brian MacLellan made some pretty aggressive moves this summer, specifically at wing. Former Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams was added in free agency and then, in a bit of a stunner, U.S. Olympic hero T.J. Oshie was acquired from St. Louis.

The team’s objective, MacLellan revealed early in the process, was to find right wingers capable of playing on the top line (next to Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) and the second unit (next to Kuznetsov and Burakovsky).

So, mission accomplished — though it didn’t come without a price.

Washington lost a trio of veteran forwards this summer: Troy Brouwer was sent to the Blues in the Oshie deal, Eric Fehr signed in Pittsburgh, and Joel Ward inked with the Sharks. Longtime blueliner Mike Green also left in free agency, as did trade deadline pickups Tim Gleason and Curtis Glencross.

Those departures were partly due to the price of the aforementioned acquisitions, but also because MacLellan had some big-ticket players in house that needed new contracts.

Chief among those was Holtby, who was rewarded for his banner season with a big five-year, $30.5M extension. Significant money was also spent elsewhere: Kuznetsov was given $6M over two years, Marcus Johansson $3.75M over one (by way of arbitration), and checking forward Jay Beagle $5.25M over three.

At the draft, the Caps were relatively quiet with just four picks, though did raise some eyebrows by picking highly-touted Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov with their top selection, at No. 22 overall.