For a goalie that’s never played fewer than 38 games in a professional season, there is little doubt life as a backup goaltender is a major league adjustment for Bruins netminder Chad Johnson.
The 27-year-old was the first goaltender off the ice following Thursday morning’s skate, and is on tap for his third appearance of the season for the Black and Gold in their 18th game of the year. Johnson is 1-1-0 with a .900 and a 2.53 goals against average, but clearly isn’t in the flow of things while still adjusting to life as a goaltender that could go weeks, or months potentially, without getting much in the way of playing time.
With the Bruins facing 10 games in the next 17 days, its likely Johnson will get at least two or three of those starts as he works himself into a midseason lather.
“There are always nerves. Every player gets them. If you don’t have them you’re not in the right sport,” said Johnson. “Being off is tough, but that’s the situation. The more you can get in, the more comfortable and confident you’ll feel in a rhythm and a routine.
“It’s definitely a different challenge, but it’s one I knew was going to have to happen if I was ever going to get into the [NHL]. It’s a role where I’m just learning how to take advantage of it.”
Claude Julien sympathizes with Johnson’s situation, but said he needs to look no further than Rask to see a goalie that had to go from AHL stud to NHL understudy prior to getting the gig to himself in Boston. It’s the career path that many goaltenders, aside from the very best or the very luckiest, must undertake before they establish themselves at the highest level of hockey.
“You hope that when guys [like Johnson] get their chances, they make the best of it and get what they deserve. Guys like that deserve success,” said Julien. “That’s where goaltenders grow a lot from that [backup experience]. They become tougher mentally and tougher physically because they’re taking extra workouts, and extra shots every day to stay sharp.
“It’s not a bad thing. Although it seems like a challenge, which it is, at the end of the year it’s made you a better goaltender.”
Johnson will be looking to meet that challenge head on against the Blue Jackets on Thursday night.