3.29.2007

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - Jack Johnson Makes NHL Debut

Oh, the West. I'll admit, it's an incredibly intense division in the NHL, with regards to competition. Tonight featured a match-up of the irritatingly competent Cansucks against the basement-dwelling-40-points-out-of-first-place L.A. Kings (with former castrati Vancouver coach Crawford at the helm). Canucks pulled out 2 points (no surprise there, really), Luongo played again (I really need him to get hurt in game 1 of the playoffs), and the ginger twins combined for 6 points. Yawn. The story I, personally was interested in, was the big-league debut of Jack Johnson. No, not the Curious George-serenading beach bum, but the former NCAA star and US National team phenom. After the University of Michigan's loss to North Dakota in round 1 of the NCAA playoffs last Saturday, Johnson (who incidentally played high school stick-puck with sophomore sell-out Sidney Crosby) signed a multi-year deal with the Kings. It's kind of a weird story, because Carolina (who drafted him 3rd overall in 2005) offered him multiple NHL deals, which were consistently turned down. Johnson quoted a firm desire to play college hockey, rather than jumping right into the show, which is fine. But he's now given up his NCAA eligibility to play for a team who sucks -18 points more than the one that previously owned his rights.

So how did this whipper-snapper do in his first game playing in front of Sean Burke? I give him a solid "meh". Lots of ice time (23 shifts for 18:45 play time), but a -1 overall, with no shots on net. Give him time, and I'm sure he'll turn out to be one hell of a defenseman. But it won't be this season. With only 5 games left for the Kings, and no chance of a playoff run there's not sufficient time for Johnson to build his skill level up to pro caliber. It's a big jump from NCAA to NHL, and I think that's going to be reflected in his stats for a while still.

In other "irritating Casey" news, the Penguins beat Boston 4-2 (thanks to the aforementioned Crosby's 3 assists), putting them 2 points ahead of Ottawa in the east. However, Ottawa has a game in hand, so it'll be a tight race for that meaningless 4th place. Also of note in the PTS/BOS game was former Golden Gopher Phil Kessel, who was named the #2 star, thanks to a 1-1-2 night.
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