"If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net." - Brooks Laich, March, 2008
With three goals in four games, Marcus Johansson has a surprising early share of the Capitals' team lead for goals scored with a goalie in the opposition's net. Eagle-eyed (or is that "Weagle-eyed"?) observers will have noticed a common thread among the Swedish pivot's trio of tallies: all three have come on shots taken with his skates below the goal line. And while that coincidence is little more than a relatively meaningless oddity, another shared characteristic among the three goals is far more noteworthy and perhaps unsurprising: all three were scored from close range.
As a point of reference, the NHL.com play-by-play sheet notes the distance of the shot pictured above - his goal against Ottawa on Saturday night -as "seven feet." Ostensibly, that is the distance from the midpoint on the end-boards to the player's feet at the time of the shot, but this data isn't exactly consistently recorded at this point. With that in mind, Johansson has been credited with goals of seven feet (pictured), ten feet (his wraparound goal against Tampa) and 13 feet (his goal against Florida). Three goals with an average distance equal to the distance from the boards to the goal line. How do you say "bakery" in Swedish?
And this is nothing new for MoJo. In his rookie campaign a season ago, he finished with the third-lowest average shot distance on the team at five-aside (minimum 40 games played), behind only noted crease-dweller Mike Knuble and power-forward-in-training Eric Fehr. The result? The team's highest five-on-five shooting percentage (if missed shots are included). By comparison, Johansson's fellow countryman Nicklas Backstrom attempted 80 (or 81%) more shots, but lit the lamp just once more, in part, perhaps, due to an average shot distance that was more than six feet further away from the goal. The average distance of Johansson's 2010-11 goals was just 19 feet. How do you say "bank" in Swedish?
Johansson is picking up where he left off in 2010-11 - right near the top of the team's shot-distance ledger - and it's obviously paying off, as he now has scored 11 of his 18 career goals (playoffs included) from 16 feet or closer. And what's particularly encouraging is that his per game shots-on-goal rate is up more than one full shot per game (in this year's extremely small sample). To paraphrase the most interesting man in the world, Marcus Johansson doesn't always choose to shoot the puck; but when he does, he prefers to do it from close range. Stay goal-hungry, my friends.