Nashville Predators: Johansen Finding His Game Again

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 09: Ryan Johansen
NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 09: Ryan Johansen /

While the Nashville Predators barely held on for a win against the Oilers, Johansen got better as the game went on. Hopefully, his growth continues.

Ryan Johansen signed a huge contract over the summer and with it came heightened expectations. Even though he was supposedly fully healed, effects of his injury seemed to linger on. His passes weren’t crisp, his stride was heavier, and he looked a split second slower than last season. Despite the lower point totals, Johansen’s underlying numbers stayed the same. Johansen’s struggles were the same ones that plagued the rest of the team. But despite some bad luck and a slow start, the Nashville Predators kept winning.  Now the Predators’ leading scorer, Filip Forsberg, is out and someone needs to step up.

The game against the Oilers was one of Johansen’s more consistent games, and it should be highlighted. So let’s do that.


Johansen was on the ice for both of the Predators’ goals, scoring one assist that was crucial to Viktor Arvidsson‘s goal. He was everywhere on the ice, especially through the first two periods. The Oilers couldn’t contain him as he was responsible for two shots and two scoring chances.

The fun didn’t stop there, as Johansen was on the ice for 10 scoring chances for and 10 against in all situations. That may not seem that great, but it looks a lot better when you consider that it’s half of the Predators’ total chances. The high danger chances look the same as Johansen was on the ice for five for and three against.

In a game that saw the Nashville Predators dominated in almost every important category, Johansen shined.

Playing against McJesus

As our great Michael Wade pointed out, Ryan Johansen is one of the premier possession driving centers in the NHL. He’s consistently near the top of the league and he remains near the top of the Predators’ despite a slow start.

While Johansen wasn’t a positive possession player against the Oilers, he was positive in relation to his team. The playmaker ended the night with a 40% Corsi and a 43.48% Fenwick. Good for a 4.59% relative Fenwick. This means that his Fenwick was 4.59% better than his teammates. While that may not seem like a lot, suppressing those shots can make a big difference.

Of course, these scores also look a lot better when you see that Johansen was facing down Connor McDavid. McDaddy was a dominating force of nature that scored a highlight reel goal and burnt Mattias Ekholm not once, but twice. I’m pretty sure Ekholm has only been burned four or five times this year, so that should tell you how incredible McDavid was.

Johansen and McDavid faced off for 11 minutes and 7 seconds and boy was it memorable. McDavid controlled the shot shares as Johansen owned a 45% Corsi and a 50% Fenwick. In fact, Johansen’s line actually had 7 shots of their own to McDavid’s 5. This essentially means that Johansen and company were able to contain McDavid’s line as well as generate chances of their own. Speaking of chances, Johansen created four high danger chances to McDavid’s two while both were on the ice. Goals were even, though, as each scored one against the other.


This is kind of uncharted territory for the center. Peter Laviolette is starting to ask Johansen to play a better two way game against top talent while the Turris and Bonino lines provide depth scoring. This is quite the contrast from last year where the JoFA line was getting easy zone starts and were being matched against middle six talent. Now Johansen is being trusted to silence a top two player in the NHL. Granted, he has one of the best shutdown pairs backing him up, but centers have a huge responsibility in the defensive zone.

Finding a groove

The Nashville Predators’ have a week off and no one will appreciate it more than injured Filip Forsberg. Even though the leading scorer is out for a few weeks, I don’t think anyone is as worried as they were before the Oilers game. Johansen is coming into his own in the defensive zone and is making some really smart decisions.

Despite this new two-way role, Johansen is still producing with 26 points in 39 games. It won’t be good enough for last season’s point total, but his impact might be even greater.

In a game where the Nashville Predators’ got dominated but won, Ryan Johansen was a positive force for the entire game. I hope this trend continues as Johansen grows into a bigger and more complete role.

Next: A Personal Apology To The Edmonton Oilers