On Johansson, Butcher, and a clear matchup pairing
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I went back and rewatched/tracked New Jersey's opening game vs Edmonton and came away very impressed with Marcus Johansson.
He didn't record a point and, thus, generated very little buzz for his performance but he was fantastic with the puck on his stick. From start to finish Johansson was involved in everything offensively. He was very clearly the driver of the 2nd unit, which is what the Devils need from him – especially with Jesper Bratt out.
Only Taylor Hall recorded more controlled entries. The same can be said about shot contributions, although Johansson led the way in shot assists. His playmaking ability was on full display even if he didn't get rewarded for it.
Despite ranking 5th among Devils defenders in 5v5 time on ice, Will Butcher was on for more shot attempts and scoring chances than any other player on the roster. He also led the team in controlled zone exits and was a distant 1st in terms of shot contributions. It's pretty apparent he is the team's best puck mover at both ends of the rink.
Prior to the opener John Hynes said the Devils don't have a set matchup pairing. His deployment certainly suggests otherwise.
Take a look at the time on ice numbers for each Devils defender vs Connor McDavid:
Sami Vatanen – 14:07
Mirco Mueller – 13:31
Andy Greene – 4:03
Damon Severson – 3:21
Ben Lovejoy – 1:03
Butcher – 0:58
As I speculated, Hynes is giving Vatanen and Mueller the toughs. They handled themselves surprisingly well – the Devils out-chanced the Oilers with P1 vs McDavid – so I'd expect them to continue in that role Thursday night vs Alex Ovechkin and co.
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