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The dirtier the task, the better for Johnson

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Ryan Johnson knows what his role is for the Vancouver Canucks and he absolutely loves it.

Ryan Johnson? You say? Who?

That's probably what you were just thinking, but don't worry, you're not alone.

The Canucks forward doesn't often make a dent on the scoreboard -- even though he's got the speed of a cheetah and the shooting accuracy of an archer -- so he isn't a household name. But Johnson will be fine if it always stays that way. His role on the Canucks is to take care of the dirty deeds that make winning an option for Vancouver.

Take Game 5 for example. He didn't record any points, but in 12:52 of ice time he played 4:26 on the penalty kill, had one hit, one blocked shot and was 6-for-12 on faceoffs.

While those numbers were a tad lower than normal, this season Johnson was a brute in the faceoff circle and one of the most sublime shot-blockers in the NHL.

He's been focused on those skills more than ever in the playoffs when the extra effort matters most. Johnson currently sits third in the League in faceoff percentage at 58.9 percent and is 13th in blocked shots with 19 through nine games played.

"Those are often things that are overlooked but they're such a huge, huge part of the game," Johnson said.

They're important to Johnson because of what each can lead to. A faceoff win, especially on special teams, grants the Canucks more possession time either in the hunt for a goal or a big kill. A painful shot block is much the same and Vancouver's lone goal in Game 4 was a prime example of what it can result in.

Midway through the second period of Game 5, Johnson pancaked his body to the ice to block a Jonathan Toews shot. Rick Rypien then snagged the puck and took off down the ice followed closely by Darcy Hordichuk. A few snazzy moves by Rypien and a nice low wrist shot by Hordichuk and the Canucks were on the board.

"Obviously it's not by design, I'm not trying to get us on the offense by blocking a shot," Johnson said, "but it happens and their D happened to be kind of pinching down and it was a great play by Rypien and Hordichuk to put it in the net."

While Johnson collected an assist on the goal, his monster block was overlooked by most, which outlines just how thankless his job is.

As you'd expect, the Thunder Bay native isn't holding his breath for flowers from coach Alain Vigneault or cookies from teammates. He got the job done and that's all that matters.

"I don't need pats on the back," Johnson grinned. "I don't need praise from anybody to know how important things like that are to a hockey game and to winning a hockey game."

For those of you still foggy on who Ryan Johnson is: "I'm a guy who likes to fly under the radar and have everybody else take the praise. I know what I do and what I bring to the game and I almost take pride in that the little things that are overlooked are the things that I focus on even more than anything else."

When all is said and done on Vancouver's Cup run, Johnson's efforts will likely be forgotten in all the commotion. But he isn't so quick to forget. His body won't let him.

This season, Johnson's body redefined the word battered, so much so that he started taking pictures to remember the best battle wounds.

"It has to be major," said Johnson, who can't name a color he hasn't seen in a bruise.

"I've had some that have ended up swelling and bruising an entire leg or an entire arm and a picture of it is pretty cool to have."

After nine games Johnson still doesn't have any from the postseason.

"I'm hoping the best is yet to come," he said.

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