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Don't Be Worried About Ryan Johansen's Play

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The budding franchise center hasn't been filling up the score sheet recently, but there shouldn't be cause for much concern.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Johansen's impact on his new club was immediate.

He scored a goal just a few minutes into his first game with the Nashville Predators, then proceeded to be the main catalyst of Nashville's offense with 15 points in 14 games. However, the hot streak cooled and Johansen and his line have since fallen mostly quiet. The former Columbus Blue Jackets center is only responsible for three assists in 12 games since that February 9th tilt against Washington.

Johansen and winger James Neal have been inseparable since the trade, and Calle Jarnkrok got stapled there about 12 games into his tenure. Before that, Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala and Mike Ribeiro all took turns in the garden seat with various levels of success.

While the recent slump may be concerning, it's more a result of poor luck and good scouting by opposing teams than it is lack of effort. Johansen is a legitimate number one center that can turn the game in an instant, so it only make sense that his line is going to have a harder time finding open ice to make things happen.

All of his underlying metrics are as good as you'd expect. He's well above even in even strength shot attempts percentage and scoring chances, and is a positive possession player relative to his team. Johansen is winning more than half of his faceoffs, and is the fourth-highest player on the team in terms of points per 60 minutes of play. The three above him are the members of the white-hot second line.

Here is Johansen's game by game breakdown since coming over from Columbus, courtesy of the always informative Hockey Viz:

The two important graphs to look at are the third and fourth, which show the relationships of shot attempts for and against, and shooting percentage for and against.

As we can see, after a rough stretch in the middle of his time as a Predator, Johansen is firing shots at a rate that is blowing his competition out of the water. However his shooting percentage, while surging back after an unsustainable dive, (look at how that correlates with the white space on the last chart) is right in line with what his opponents are doing. If his shot production can stay at or around the level it has been over the last several games, there's plenty of reason to believe the goals and points will start coming again.

We also can't discount his performance on the power play, as he's been a mainstay on the first unit. In his time in gold, Johansen has three goals and three assists when the Preds have an extra man. That's as much as Forsberg, and only Mike Ribeiro (1G, 7A) has more points among forwards on the power play. Johansen also fires shots toward the net at a rate higher than any other player.

The fact of the matter is Johansen's line has two of Nashville's three best forwards on it, and they are drawing the best defenders the opposition has to offer. When those are their assignments it's not surprising to see a drop in production. The good news is that eating those minutes have given the Ribeiro line plenty of opportunity to flex their muscles, and they have been doing exactly that.

Yes, the Predators are going to need their top line to start producing regularly and yes, there is a question as to whether or not Jarnkrok belongs on the first line forever. But there are far more signs pointing to Johansen coming around again than concerns that he's reached his apex. He's 23, and a huge body that isn't going to flying up and down the ice 100% of the time.

When he does things like this, you remember he can change the game in an instant: