|Jack Johnson has close to 200 games experience in the NHL, but none in the post season.
Jack Johnson does not have NHL playoff experience. That much is undeniable. Johnson Highlights
Big games? Playing under pressure? Johnson has been doing that, at some of the highest levels, for quite a while, so he’s not exactly intimidated by the idea of playoff hockey.
Big games? They don’t get a lot bigger than wearing your country’s jersey, as a teenager, at the World Junior Championships and, a few years later, at its senior-level equivalents.
Pressure? It doesn’t get much more intense than 20,000 or so Canadians watching your every stride, hoping for you to make a mistake in the gold-medal game of the Olympics.
So when the NHL playoffs start for Johnson and the Kings next week, it will be uncharted territory, but not totally unfamiliar. Johnson, nearing the end of his third full NHL season, has already proven himself to be a player who rises to occasions.
"I enjoy playing those types of games more, because they mean something," Johnson said. "They're just way more fun to play in. By playing in the Olympics, I know I can play in the playoffs."
It’s not just the Olympics, either. Only 23 years old, Johnson already has significant experience playing for championships on every level that he has competed.
In 2003, as a 16-year-old sophomore, Johnson helped his Shattuck-St. Mary’s high school team win a national championship. Two years later, Johnson and Team USA won a gold medal in the IIHF Under-18 Championships.
In 2006, Johnson played in the World Juniors and made the tournament’s all-star team. The next year, he got a bronze medal in the same tournament and, in 2006 and 2007, Johnson participated in the NCAA Tournament with the University of Michigan.
Last year, at the end of the NHL season, Johnson scored a team-high five goals for the United States in the IIHF Men’s World Championships, and Johnson put a cap on his international resume by winning a silver medal at this year’s Olympics.
Given all that, it’s easy to understand why Johnson, as a key member of the Kings’ defense, isn’t concerned about having to raise his game for the NHL playoffs.
"Well, I know the games aren't going to be as fast and skilled as they were in the Olympics," Johnson said. "So I know that I felt very comfortable in those games and I did well, and I know if I can do well in the Olympic Games, in the gold-medal game, USA vs. Canada, I can carry that over. I'm very confident about the playoffs.
"I know what to expect, and they're going to be fun games. You get through the regular season to get to the real season. This is the longest I've ever gone without qualifying for a postseason, here with the Kings, so it's going to be fun. I do get some confidence from having played in the Olympics, because I know, no matter what, it's not going to be as fast and skilled as the Olympics."
Continue to Part II.