Battle of the Blueliners: Johnson vs Josi


The Colorado Avalanche are hosting their divisional opponents, the Nashville Predators. It’s the first of five meetings. Last season the two teams met only four times, with the Avs taking three of the four meetings.

Despite that, Nashville defenseman Roman Josi had very good success against the Avalanche. He played all four games, and he earned an impressive three goals and two assists. Avalanche top defenseman Erik Johnson, on the other hand… well, he got 17 penalty minutes after playing all four games. That was it. (He did better than Nashville captain and top d-man Shea Weber, who also got no goals or assists and only six penalty minutes. Slacker.)

Johnson and Josi actually pair up pretty well against each other. Let’s look at who has the slight edge.

Hockey Style

Josi is not described as being a great offensive defenseman. He is part of the top defensive pairing with Shea Weber. He does not play a crash and bang style at all, but he’s got decent hockey sense. He’s still young — 24 — and only in his fourth NHL season. He’s also a mite light for a defenseman — Gabriel Landeskog size at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds. (Landeskog actually has 12 pounds on him.)

Johnson is a solid two-way defenseman who has really added depth to his game this year. He’s a powerful skater, strong on the puck, and can play both physically and with finesse. He’s the Avalanche’s top defenseman, typically logging the longest minutes against the big lines. And he’s a behemoth at 6-foot-4, 232 pounds. He’s only a couple years older at 26, but he’s in his eighth year in the NHL.

Basic Stats

Both Johnson and Josi had career-best seasons last year. Johnson actually matched his career-best 39 points with nine goals and 30 assists. Josi got one more point, 40, with 13 goals and 27 assists.

This season looks to be pretty good for both young men. Josi has three goals and 11 assists for 14 points, putting him on pace for around 44 points this season. Johnson has four goals and nine assists for 13 points, putting him on pace for about 40 points.

Advanced Stats

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Looking at some of the more advances statistics gives a little more rounded picture of the two players.

Josi has a slight edge offensively. Last year he recorded 168 shots on goal and had a decent 7.7 shooting percentage. Johnson recorded 157 shots on goal with a 5.7 shooting percentage. This season doesn’t look too different, with Josi’s 61 shots and Johnson’s 68.

Defense is where it gets interesting. Josi blocked 150 shots but only delivered 32 hits. Johnson, on the other hand, blocked 130 shots but delivered 136 hits — over four times the amount of hits. Josi’s still blocking lots of shots — 67 already — and not delivering a lot of hits, only 10. Johnson blocks shots too — 45 already — but has already hit more in 26 games than Josi in 72 last season — 51 hits.

Last season, Josi’s turnover ratio was -12 — Johnson’s was +7. This year Johnson’s has dropped to -2 with the Avs puck possession woes. Josi’s at -7 this season.


Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson is more aggressive. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson’s a bigger, more aggressive two-way defenseman.If the play gets physical, as it probably will between these divisional opponents, bet on Johnson.

Josi knows how to solve Valramov, but Semyon Varlamov isn’t playing in tonight’s game. Johnson’s about due for another point or two. It could go either way.

As far as who’s hungrier… the Predators did just suffer a loss in their home arena, the first since October. The Avs… well, they just got embarrassed in Winnipeg. And Johnson has a plan:

"“It sounds simple. We’ve really got to crowd the goalie and make it difficult. It’s easier said than done… It’s more of a mindset than anything, and you’ve got to commit your mind to doing it.”"

Josi might score — but my money’s on Johnson. He’s recorded a ridiculous 19 shots in the last five games — he really is due.