Kalman: ‘Magic’ Johansson passes Bruins to Game 1 victory

Matt Kalman
April 26, 2019 - 12:58 am

One Bruins player leaving TD Garden after a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference second round against Columbus on Thursday suggested one other player in the world capable of making a backhand pass across the ice like the one Marcus Johansson threw to Charlie Coyle for the game-tying goal.

“Pavel Datsyuk,” he said.

The former Detroit Red Wings star is certainly one. There are a handful of others.

But it takes more than just skill to pull off a play like Johansson's to tie a crucial playoff game with 4:35 left in regulation.

“Especially backhand, through a guy’s skate, right on the money. Yeah, it takes balls to even try it, never mind execute it like that,” Bruins forward Chris Wagner told WEEI.com. “So yeah, it’s probably the nicest pass I had front-row seat for.”

Johansson got healthy in the second half of the first-round Toronto series that Boston won in seven games. Now that he’s trying passes that should come with a trigger warning, he’s clearly comfortable in Boston. Memo to the Blue Jackets and the rest of the remaining Stanley Cup playoff teams: “Magic” Johansson is on the loose.

“That second goal is an all-world play,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said about the Johansson-Coyle connection on the tying goal.

He also connected with Coyle on the game-winner 5:15 into overtime

Finding a fit for Johansson after he was acquired from New Jersey at the trade deadline was complicated not just because he was new to the Bruins. There was the matter of his preference for playing the left side. And of course there was the lung injury that kept him out for 10 games after he’d played four games for Boston.

The Johansson-Coyle connection began to forge some chemistry at the tail end of the regular season, but after one game against the Maple Leafs in the first round, illness struck. Johansson couldn’t even fly with the team to Toronto for Game 3. He rejoined the club for Game 4 and, luckily for him, Cassidy was looking to make his lineup fleeter of foot. So Johansson was back in and the Bruins evened the series 2-2. He hasn’t left the lineup since.

Johansson scored an unassisted goal in Boston’s Game 7. Now he and Coyle are becoming to the Bruins what Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, have been for several seasons – an inseparable pair.

“It’s a work in progress I think,” Coyle said. “t’s something you can work on in practice and get some reps in there and get to know each other. And off the ice too, you get to know each other a little bit. We carpooled to the plane and to practice a few times, and get to know each other. That way you’re comfortable with each other off the ice and on the ice, kind of translating in a way.”

Johansson sees Coyle as a perfect match for a center because of similar styles of play.

 “I think we both like to play with a lot of speed,” Johansson said about Cole. “We like to move the puck and I think so far what’s been part of the success is that we haven’t really made it too hard on ourselves. We’re not forcing things. I mean that’s how we got goals tonight. So, you know, keeping it simple and moving our feet, taking advantage of the chances when we get them.”

All the clichés in the English to Swedish to Hockey dictionary couldn’t convince anyone, though, that what Johansson and Coyle executed on the tying goal was “keeping it simple.” Datsyuk, Marchand (remember that David Pastrnak goal he set earlier this season in Ottawa?), you can probably count those currently playing in the NHL or overseas that can complete that pass on one hand.

“That was pretty special,” another Bruins player known for some fancy passing said on his way out of the rink.

If the special plays keep coming from Johansson, and he and Coyle give the Bruins a third line as dangerous as their top two, the Bruins may enjoy a magical ending to this series and this playoff run.

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Related: Charlie Coyle's 2 goals lift Bruins to Game 1 OT win over Blue Jackets