The moment Ryan Johansen was acquired by the Nashville Predators, he adopted the title of being the first true No. 1 center the franchise has ever seen. While most of the excitement around his impact was centered on even strength situations, what he brings to the power play shouldn’t be overlooked.
In his seven games played with the Predators, Johansen has scored three goals, all of which have come while on the man advantage. Prior to joining Nashville, he had just one power play goal in 38 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The 23-year-old is averaging three minutes of power play time per contest and brings a unique dynamic to Nashville’s top power play unit. At 6’3” and 218 pounds he can properly serve as a net front presence, screening the opposing netminders while Shea Weber, Roman Josi and company throw pucks on net from the point. He has a scoring touch of his own of course, and he’s utilized the left face off circle as his primary spot of attack.
Now let’s take a more in-depth look at each of his three power play goals and break them down individually.
Power Play Goal #1 – January 8th Against The Colorado Avalanche
This was Johansen’s first ever shot in a Nashville sweater and he made it count. As you can see, Johansen was in his go-to spot around the left face off dot when he received the puck.
With the time and space the Avalanche gave him, James Neal immediately bolts for the high-slot position, Mike Ribeiro screens the goalie while a defenseman, which in this case is Mattias Ekholm, positions himself at the right face off dot.
This forms a diamond shape between the two face off circles with the other defenseman manning the blue line to catch pucks attempting to leave the zone.
Ultimately, accomplishing a shape like this on the ice with the spacing the Avalanche allowed is a recipe for success more often than not. The penalty killing team either gets bunched up between the two skaters between the face off circles, which happened in this case, or they spread out worrying about the back door pass or shots from the point which would give Neal a bit more space.
Power Play Goal #2 – January 14th Against The Winnipeg Jets
The first thing to take note of about this particular goal is Winnipeg’s penalty kill. All four of the Jets’ skaters got caught looking at the puck and the battle in the corner leaving Johansen all alone in front, not the best game plan for any penalty kill.
Johansen is certainly in an attacking position on the ice, but he’s also in a position where if the Jets win the puck battle he can make an immediate check in an attempt to win back the puck. He also doesn’t leave Josi out on an island in case a Winnipeg skater gets control of the puck and decides to turn up ice instead of simply dumping it out of the zone.
After receiving the puck, Johansen shows off his scoring ability with a smooth forehand to backhand move that leaves Connor Hellebuyck very little chance to make the save.
Power Play Goal #3 – January 21st Against The Winnipeg Jets
This is the most unique power play goal of the bunch. Nashville’s first power play of the game had just gotten underway, so the players were just getting into position. To feel out the opposing penalty kill, the first power play usually involves pressuring the defense as quickly as possible, which is exactly what Nashville did.
With Mike Ribeiro making his way to the top of the face off dot, Johansen made his way down to the goal line, putting him in a position that if he receives the puck he has two options: either turn and fire the puck on net, or lay off a drop pass to Neal who has plenty of space in the slot.
He opted to drop the puck to Neal who fired a shot that deflected off of Hellebyuck. Being positioned just below the goal line, Johansen was in a spot to simply poke the puck into the back of the net. If Neal had missed the net, Johansen still would have been in a good position to retrieve the missed shot and reset the power play.
All in all, Johansen has been electric on the power play during his short time with the Predators. Nashville has found their top power play unit; Neal, Johansen, Ribeiro, Josi, and Weber form a deadly group.
They have two defensemen on the ice with elite shots, a sniper in Neal, Ribeiro who slows down the play, and Johansen whose mix of smart passing and sneaky shooting makes him a force from any angle.
The Predators power play currently ranks ninth in the league, but with Johansen firing on all cylinders that ranking could improve by the end of the regular season.