Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan took the question about defenseman Jack Johnson and ran with it. Ran hard.
Johnson, signed as a free agent last summer, scored his first goal with the Penguins Thursday night, a somewhat surprising wrist shot during a power play as part of an offensive onslaught that produced a 9-1 win at Calgary.
Perhaps, it was posed to Sullivan, that will give Johnson some confidence.
“I think it’s a good boost of confidence for Jack,” Sullivan said, and then without prompting, he launched into his own long vote of confidence for Johnson.
“I think Jack’s quietly played a sound game for us. I don’t think he always gets some of the credit he deserves. For example, I know that there’s talk that he’s on the ice for five goals against (last game against Edmonton). Well, the reality is when you break down the involvement of those goals, he had no responsibility for any of those goals against. He just happened to be on the ice for them. We try to look at the game a whole lot closer than just hey, a guy is on the ice when a goal is scored because a lot can happen in a team game.”
Johnson’s only point entering the Flames game was an assist, he was a minus-3, he had not settled in with a specific defense partner, he was sometimes deployed on his off side, he looked to be a little slow at times reacting to plays, and his metrics weren’t exactly sterling.
Sullivan is sticking to his praise.
“What I will say is that Jack has quietly adjusted to the style of play that we’re trying to play here in Pittsburgh,” the coach said. “We believe he’s a solid defenseman. The fact that he scores here tonight, hopefully, will give him a big boost of confidence.”