Columbus Blue Jackets rookie forward Kent Johnson can be described in a lot of ways.
Creative? You bet. Skilled? Absolutely. Brave? After scoring a 'Michigan' goal against the New York Islanders, I would argue yes.
27 years after "The Michigan Goal" was born by Mike Legg, a 20-year-old who played at @umichhockey just pulled it off in the @NHL.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 25, 2023
What a goal by @BlueJacketsNHL forward Kent Johnson! pic.twitter.com/VGRnjianlX
It was 27 years ago that Mike Legg scored the iconic goal at the University of Michigan, giving this style of goal its namesake. Fitting, then, that Johnson, a fellow Wolverine, would follow in his footsteps.
This wasn't Johnson's first rodeo when it comes to the 'Michigan'. He scored a similar goal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships. He scored two similar goals in his junior career playing for the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL. But this was his first such goal at the NHL level.
The Blue Jackets forward, who is fourth in rookie scoring with a respectable 15-23-38 in 69 games played statline, just put an exclamation point on a solid first year. There was so much that went into this goal, we felt it necessary to do a breakdown.
When attempting a move like this, a player has to be hyperaware of his surroundings. Not only does he need to have the space behind the net to make the move, but he needs sufficient speed to beat the goalie to the far post. And perhaps most importantly, he needs to recognize that the weakside defender/winger isn't going to meet him at the back post and decapitate him, as was often a deterrent in a now-mostly-bygone era.
At 0:12, Johnson recognizes that he will be able to create some space for himself. As Jack Roslovic skates uphill, bringing his check with him, Johnson sees the space in the right corner and behind the net. To create more space for himself, Johnson toe drags between his legs to create maximum separation (0:14) between him and the defender.
As he skates behind the net (0:16), he realizes that nobody is coming downhill to try to blow him up, and that, if he can quickly get the puck up on his stick (which, by the way, is no easy feat in and of itself), he will have the requisite speed/space required to at least attempt the 'Michigan'.
When he beat star goaltender Ilya Sorokin to the far-post, he raised in hands to the skies, as if to take a deep breath while simultaneously asking the crowd "Are You Not Entertained?!".
Head coach Brad Larsen was equally impressed: “Some of the guys were holding their heads. The fact that he can do that at full speed.. it’s an incredible goal. It’s an amazing goal.”
Indeed, it was.