WILMINGTON -- It didn’t get off to a great start in Buffalo, but the final six weeks of the regular season will essentially be Chad Johnson’s playoffs.
The Bruins backup netminder should see his number called often over the final 24 games of the regular season with eight sets of back-to-back games, and a busy schedule calling for 17 games in the 31 days of March. Johnson lost the overtime game to the Sabres while giving up five goals, and looked just as rusty as the sluggish defenders in front of him.
Johnson was a little slow with his glove hand, was having trouble tracking pucks in traffic and couldn’t stop the Matt D’Agostini breakaway shot in overtime with the game hanging in the balance. It was simply a night to forget for a B’s goalie that hasn’t had too many of them recently.
But the 27-year-old knows he’s likely to get his number called again pretty quickly with the back-to-back games against the Capitals and Rangers this weekend.
“There’s been no real [playing time] talk, but I’m definitely looking forward to keeping the same routine that we had for the last month leading into the Olympics,” said Chad Johnson, who has an 11-3-1 record with a 2.30 goals against average and .917 save percentage in an impressive first season as a backup netminder at the NHL level. “You feel rusty, but some of the goals [against the Sabres] you shake your head at what happened on those plays.
“It was disappointing losing that game, but you just want to get right back into your rhythm. I don’t look at the past too much. You watch the tape the next deal, and then get ready for the next start. I just want to help Tuukka, help the team get wins and give him some rest when he needs it. It’s a big month for the team as we push in the last six weeks of the season.”
Claude Julien hasn’t worked out workload ration, but a 60/40 split between the 24 remaining games isn’t out of the question. That would leave Johnson with starts in something like 10 of the last 24 games -- a workload that feels just about right.
That division of labor would keep Tuukka Rask sharp after his Olympic experience, but also assure enough rest that he’ll have a full tank once the Stanley Cup playoffs get going.
Julien said that Rask will get back into the swing of things this weekend against either the Capitals, or the Rangers, after earning a few days off following his bronze medal performance in the Olympics.
“I think you’ll see them both. I don’t know what percentage it will be,” said Claude Julien. “We don’t look that far ahead. I know it’s a heavy schedule, and we’re not going to be able to rely on one goaltender. Then we’ll go game-by-game and week-by-week.”
If Johnson continues to appear rusty it will put some undue pressure on the Bruins and Rask in what should be a manageable workload for the Finnish netminder. But if Johnson performs as he did in the month leading up to the Olympic break, then things should fall into place nicely for both the team and the B’s goaltending tandem.