‘Things don’t come easy’ for Andreas Johnsson at Leafs camp

‘Things don’t come easy’ for Andreas Johnsson at Leafs camp
It’s only his second NHL training camp, but Maple Leafs winger Andreas Johnsson realizes the importance of understanding yourself.

All through camp, the projected fourth-line winger has admittedly struggled with his decision making, and how to manage the puck.

Struggling may be a strong word, but Johnsson, like all players, expects more from himself, even at this early juncture of the season.

“I’ve experienced this before, it’s not something new for me to have to find the right things to do in the decision-making process,” Johnsson said. “I’ve got new linemates, but I’m finding myself more comfortable (as camp moves forward). I guess it’s just the first time on ice, in games, things don’t come easy but it will get better.”

For Johnsson, it’s been something of a dramatic camp so far; Leafs coach Mike Babcock directed some pointed comments at him and fellow winger Kaspari Kapanen during a drill last week.

The message was simple — get your game going, use your skills and gifts and create more offence.

Johnsson didn’t deny then that he needed to work on the finer details of his offensive game. For a few days last week, though, the moment on the ice with Babcock took on a life of its own.

Johnsson, and in the same vein, Kapanen, needed to show more of themselves to quiet talk that their jobs were somehow in jeopardy.

A week later, both are in the same place they were at the start of camp – firmly entrenched on the fourth line, with Par Lindholm as the center.

“I think when you’re asked how you feel, I feel fast out there,” Johnsson said.

“But the tactics behind “where should I play on the ice, when should I shoot’ … I think that’s what I’m working hard on now,” Johnsson said.

That fourth line is now something of an example of the new, hybrid version of a fourth line the Leafs are targeting. In fact, with Johnsson, Lindholm, and Kapanen, Toronto has, for the first time in recent memory, the combination of speed and skill for a fourth line that has been established in other NHL cities like Boston, Tampa and St. Louis.

Johnsson and his linemates certainly show the potential to produce on offence, and just as importantly, use their speed to turn momentum in favor of their team.

“They (coaching staff) put us together because they know we’re fast,” Johnsson said.

“We’re not a typical fourth line, but I think we can do two-way play too. Offence, fast transition, that’s our strong side, but we have to play defence tough. We’re fast, so we have to be that way against other (fourth lines).”

Johnsson, in the meantime, says he’s never played with Lindholm in the past. Both are natives of Sweden, and may have a natural connection on the ice.

Off the ice, Johnsson has certainly reached out to his new centre, welcoming him to the city with dinners and outings. The Leafs now have something of a “Little Stockholm” in the organization — at least nine Swedes who will play either with the NHL team or the Marlies (Johnsson, Lindholm, William Nylander, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman, Timothy Liljegren, Carl Grundstrom, Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall).

“He’s (Lindholm) an older player (26) and I feel like he’s a confident person on and off the ice,” Johnsson said.

“I think we all help each other (Swedish players), but (Lindholm) seems pretty confident, it’s not like he’s a rookie in these situations.”
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