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Two months after Caps traded him, Marcus Johansson is looking forward to fresh start with Devils

Two months after Caps traded him, Marcus Johansson is looking forward to fresh start with Devils

Want to know what it's like to get traded after seven years in the same organization?

Ask Marcus Johansson — who, two months after being dealt from the Capitals to the Devils, is still a player between homes...and uniforms.

Monday morning, Johansson skated with his former teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex while sporting a Washington helmet, a Washington practice jersey but New Jersey pants and New Jersey gloves.

So what brought him back to town? After spending most of the summer in Sweden, he needed to pack up his Arlington home and move his family up the Jersey Turnpike. And, of course, get in some cardio.

“I was texting with [Capitals defenseman John Carlson], and he told me to come in,” Johansson said. “It’s fun to be [back] here. You miss all the guys, from the trainers to the equipment staff and everyone. So it’s fun to be here and see everyone and kind of still feel you know them really well, and it doesn’t change just because you changed teams.”

It’s fun but “weird” at the same time. 

RELATED: Braden Holtby is looking at bright side of offseason changes

“Yeah, it feels different,” he said of getting dressed in the Capitals’ locker room as a member of another team. “It feels weird. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come in at first or not. This has been home for seven years, and now it’s not anymore. So it feels a little different, but it seems like there’s a lot of changes going on around here and it’s not just me that’s leaving. It’s going to take a little while for me to get used to it. This going to be somewhat of a different team than it’s been in the past here.”

Johansson enjoyed a career year in 2016-17, amassing 24 goals and 58 points in 82 games. But that didn’t keep the Capitals’ 2009 first-rounder from becoming a cap casualty. Because shortly after Evgeny Kuznetsov was signed to an eight-year, $62.4 million extension in early July, Johansson and his $4.6 million cap hit were on the move, dealt to New Jersey for a couple of draft picks.

For the Caps, it was a tough but necessary business decision. For Johansson, it upended his life.

“It’s part of the game," he said. "Sometimes you have to change things, and we had some good opportunities to win these past two years, and we didn’t take them and this is what comes afterward.

"You have to change something, and guys needed new contracts and stuff like that, so that’s the way it goes. There’s nothing more to say about it.”

The 26-year-old added: “It's a little bit different, but I guess it's a part of the game, and I got to learn that the hard way. But I'm excited for it. It's going to be a good challenge — fun to take the family somewhere new and start a new adventure.”

That new adventure starts a few weeks from now with a Devils’ team that finished last in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey has, however, made some upgrades this summer, including drafting Nico Hischier with the No. 1 overall pick and signing college hockey star Will Butcher on Sunday.

“It's a good group,” Johansson said. “A group of young guys, the team and organization that's heading in the right direction. It feels like coming there now you're part of that almost from the start. I'm feeling really good about this. It's going to be a fun year. It's going to be a tough challenge, but I think if we're up to it, we can certainly pull it off.”

Johansson also hopes the move allows him to take on a bigger role after being overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and other stars in Washington.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I hope so. That would be fun. That's a chance to take the next step as well as a player. I'm excited for new opportunities and new challenges. You get there, and you don't really know anything. I don't know anyone, which is kind of fun, too. It's very different from the last past seven years. It's going to be exciting.”

As for the mismatched outfit he’s been wearing on the ice in Arlington the past few days? 

“I got some [Devils] practice jerseys, but I didn’t bring them over,” he said with a smile. “I have them in Sweden because I felt I had enough stuff to bring over with me. And I didn’t think I was going to skate here, either.”

MORE CAPITALS: The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps — No. 17 Christian Djoos

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Where do the Caps most need to improve in the second half of the season?


Where do the Caps most need to improve in the second half of the season?

The bye week is a good opportunity to evaluate what happened over the course of the first half of the season and start to look forward. Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan answer the biggest questions surrounding the team at the bye.

Today's topic: Where do the Caps most need to improve in the second half of the season?

El-Bashir: The area where the Caps must improve, without a doubt, is special teams.

Let’s start with the talent-laden power play unit. After a protracted dry spell in mid-December (one goal in nine games), Alex Ovechkin and Co. have shown some signs of life lately. In fact, they produced five goals in the seven games preceding the bye week. Still, the unit ranks just 14th at 19.6-percent. Whether it’s overpassing, predictability or not getting enough production from the second unit, there’s simply too much talent there to rank near the middle the pack. The power play has also surrendered six shorthanded goals; only five teams have allowed more.


The bigger concern, however, is the penalty kill. The unit appeared to have turned a corner in late November and early December when it gave up just one goal in 10 games. But it has struggled in 13 games since, surrendering 10 power play goals against (74.4-percent). 

The penalty kill was particularly porous in the Caps’ last game before the bye, a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes in Raleigh. Carolina’s power play struck twice, and afterward Coach Barry Trotz called the unit out.

“I think they maybe spent 10 seconds on the power play and got two goals,” Trotz said. “That’s an area where we’re going to need a little more commitment in some areas, a little more detail and get better.”

So far, the Metro-leading Caps have managed to overcome their inconsistent P.K. But in the playoffs, where special teams often play an outsized role in determining outcomes, they may not be so fortunate. Whether the problems are being caused by scheme, personnel or taking penalties in bunches, the team’s capable coaching staff has 37 regular season games left to sort things out.

Regan: There are two ways to approach this question. My biggest concern for the team is defensive depth, but the area in which the team most needs to improve is shooting.

The Caps have not one, but two rookies on the blue line in Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Barry Trotz has sheltered them well this season, but that becomes much harder to do in the playoffs when coaches can focus on one specific team.

Plus, we saw the trickle-down effect an injury to a player like Matt Niskanen can have. If they lose any of their top three defensemen, that means more minutes for two rookies, more minutes for a 37-year-old Brooks Orpik and no real replacement you can feel comfortable with plugging in for an extended period of time.


But depth is an area the team can’t really improve on. You either have it or you don’t in which case you have to acquire it.

Something the team absolutely can and must improve on is getting shots on goal.

The Caps rank dead last in the NHL in shots per game with 29.0. Washington will not maintain its 3.04 goals per game (9th in the NHL), unless they get more shots.

Washington is not chasing games as much as the possession metrics (shot attempts) seem to indicate. They simply are not taking advantage of their opportunities. They overpass the puck often giving up open shots in favor of more difficult set-ups which often results in giving up possession

The Caps must absolutely learn from Lars Eller who is on a hot streak with five goals in seven games. His goals have been simple. He is not being too cute or getting fantastic setups, he’s just shooting. In games in which Eller scores, he averages 3.50 shots. When he doesn’t score, he averages only 1.61.

Say it with me now everyone: Shoot the puck!

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Caps will rock the blue in March as they reveal blue Stadium Series jersey

Via @Capitals Twitter

Caps will rock the blue in March as they reveal blue Stadium Series jersey

Are you ready to rock the blue?

The Capitals will trade their familiar red look for navy blue in March as they revealed their jerseys for the Stadium Series game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Caps revealed the jerseys via Twitter on Wednesday.

Here's a full view of the front and back.

The team also released a statement explaining the inspiration for the new look.

Inspired by the Capitals’ classic identity and fused with the most advanced uniform technologies available in the new adidas adizero Authentic NHL uniforms, the special edition Washington Capitals’ 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ uniform is a salute to the game’s locale – Annapolis, MD. Marking the first time in Capitals history the team will wear a navy-blue uniform, the overall design aesthetic pays homage to the U.S. Navy and highlights key elements of the Capitals’ identity. Each element of the Capitals’ visual identity has been emphasized to create bolder, more visually pronounced uniforms that are meant to make a statement and be more recognizable in the larger outdoor stadium setting.

The Capitals’ special edition crest design centers around the team’s informal nickname, CAPS™, and is stylistically aligned to the team’s current wordmark. Additionally, the crest incorporates the three stars from the team’s primary moniker, which also honors the Washington, D.C. city flag. The pants feature a new contemporary "W" with three stars of the city flag, which also serves as a subtle nod to the Washington monument.

Additional design details include a bolder one-color version of the Capitals’ numbers for better visibility in the outdoor stadium setting. As a historic tribute to team’s hometown, the numbers are accentuated with a perforated pattern based on Pierre L’Enfant's original grid plan for the city of Washington, D.C. A strong white shoulder yoke serves as a nod to the classic stars & stripes from the clubs’ past uniforms and the thick red stripes and hem stripes evoke thoughts of the city flag of Washington D.C. To complete the look, the jerseys are donned with a special edition 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ patch on the right shoulder of the jersey.

You will get to see these jerseys in action on March 3 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.