Maybe they’ll wind up being the best of friends.
Hockey’s like that. Players who swing fists and lob insults in the heat of competition often enjoy each other’s company away from the ice. Especially if, like Marcus Johansson and Brad Marchand, they wind up chasing a Stanley Cup together.
Johansson, acquired by the Bruins on Monday, said his new teammate might not be all that bad a guy, even though 13 months ago he was incensed over a nasty elbow that knocked him out of action for two months, a hit that exacerbated concussion troubles that have only recently cleared.
“That’s water under the bridge,” said Johansson, standing in front of stall No. 90 in the Bruins’ dressing room at Warrior Ice Arena on Tuesday, hours before he was to make his Black and Gold debut at TD Garden against the San Jose Sharks.
Maybe they won’t be vacationing together in the offseason, but Johansson said Marchand took an important first step to clear the air from Jan. 23, 2018. After speaking with Bruins management, who dealt two draft picks (second-rounder in 2019, fourth in ’20) to the Devils to get him, Johansson received another call from the Boston area.
Marchand, praising the newcomer for his slick playmaking and backchecking effort in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory, was contrite about the phone call.
“It was a very bad hit and also with how everything played out after, I wanted to touch base,” Marchand said. “He’s very mature about the situation and handled it great. A little embarrassing on my behalf the way it played out.”
Johansson said, “He apologized and it was great.”
Johansson ranks right behind Marchand on the Bruins in terms of experience, having played 578 games (plus 72 in the playoffs) to Marchand’s 663 and 84. He called it a “great gesture” from his new teammate.
“I just said, ‘That stuff happens a lot.’ It’s just fun to be here and it’s fun to be his teammate. He’s one of the best players in the league, so it’s fun to be on this side of it now.”
Much more enjoyable than it felt last March, when Johansson, after the elbow knocked him out 28 games, termed it a “stupid” play and wondered aloud if Marchand’s actions would eventually end someone’s career. Marchand was suspended five games and fined $373,475.60 for the hit.
Marchand, who was not present for Tuesday’s optional morning skate, was fined twice more for separate incidents last spring — and put a licking on his foes in the playoffs — but has not been in trouble this season. He is yet again operating well above a point-per-game pace. With 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists) in 62 games (including a goal and two assists in Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over the Sharks), he needs 11 in the Bruins’ final 19 games for a third consecutive 85-point season.
Johansson has noticed.
“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.”
Does Marchand owe him anything? A dinner?
“We’ll figure that out,” Johansson said, chuckling.
Johansson, a left shot, started Tuesday on the right side of center David Krejci and left wing Jake DeBrusk. He picked up an assist on DeBrusk’s second-period goal that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead. The former Capitals first-rounder (24th overall in 2009) produced 12 points in his last 13 games in New Jersey, after putting up 15 in his first 36.
“I had some rough times in Jersey, being [not] healthy, but lately I’ve had the chance to play for a pretty long stretch without anything bothering me,” said Johansson, who suited up for just 29 games last year (5-9—14). “It feels like I’ve kind of found my way back to my own game.”
With David Pastrnak (thumb) out at least another couple weeks, coach Bruce Cassidy has 19 games to determine how best to utilize Johansson and fellow newcomer Charlie Coyle. Both will start on the second power play unit, which has been a work in progress. Coyle appears like a fit as the No. 3 center. Perhaps Johansson, who rode with Alex Ovechkin in Washington for a stint, will click with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand. Stranger things have occurred.
“If they don’t pass the puck to each other, everyone on the ice will find out, I guess,” Cassidy said. “I think it’s just one of those incidents that happened . . . I don’t think Marchy knew who he was hitting. Marcus is over it. Let’s play some hockey.”
Bergeron felt Johansson, whom he called “very skilled and smart with the puck,” would provide a boost wherever he lands. Same with Coyle, the East Weymouth kid who made his Garden debut wearing No. 13.
“You work all year to get to a certain point and you’re obviously happy with the guys you have,” Bergeron said, “but when the team and management decides we’re playing well enough to add some really good players, that gives you even more confidence.”
As far as the other thing:
“I don’t see that as a problem at all,” he said.
Moore steps in
Defenseman Kevan Miller (upper body), recovering from a blocked shot, sat out against the Sharks. Cassidy didn’t think Miller’s injury would keep him out long. John Moore, a healthy scratch the previous four (and 12 of the prior 18), replaced Miller on the third pair . . . Peter Cehlarik and Karson Kuhlman, assigned to AHL Providence on Monday, were working out in Brighton on Tuesday. Cassidy wanted to try Johansson with Krejci first before re-introducing either rookie to the lineup. Both have earned the right to stick with the big club, he said, unless “someone lights it up in Providence.” . . . Johansson is the seventh current Bruin to have worn his country’s colors in the Olympic Games (which may or may not be a part of the NHL’s 2022 calendar; stay tuned). He won silver with the Swedes in 2014, losing a final to Bergeron and Team Canada. David Backes (USA, silver, 2010) and Tuukka Rask (Finland, bronze, 2014) are the Bruins other medalists. Zdeno Chara (‘06, ’10, ’14) and Jaroslav Halak (’10, ’14) were three-time Olympians for Slovakia. Krejci has participated twice (’10, ’14) for the Czech Republic . . . Johansson, who has always worn No. 90 because it has always been available, becomes the first No. 90 in Bruins history. The first to don it leaguewide, according to Hockey-Reference: Joe Juneau, who wore it in Washington after the ill-fated 1994 trade that brought Al Iafrate to Boston. Juneau wore No. 49 with Boston.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter @mattysports.