UNIONDALE, NY -- A month ago it looked like Chad Johnson might be on the ropes with the Bruins.
He was going through a tough stretch where he let up four goals in a loss to the Sabres, and then the Bruins brought Swedish rookie Niklas Svedberg up from Providence to take one of his scheduled starts. That's when perhaps the doubt crept in a little bit.
Johnson says no, but it’s hard to imagine there wasn’t a little trepidation.
“They were always very open with me [about the situation], and I know there’s always an emphasis on working young guys in there,” said Johnson. “I think that’s why the Bruins are so good. They communicate and let you know what’s going on. I obviously lost a start with [Svedberg] playing, but that’s part of the business that I’m in.”
But some work with Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa, a little confidence from some positive results and regular playing time have allowed Johnson to flourish, and he’ll continue that feel-good story with a start Monday night against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Johnson was the first goalie off the ice during the optional Monday morning skate, and continues to ride the wave.
“You can get into that game rhythm a lot easier, and that game preparation is easier when your games are closer together,” said Johnson. “You try and be as ready as possible when you’re not playing, but that focus and mentality just isn’t the same.”
Johnson went close to a whole month without starting a game before a big rebound effort in a win over Dallas 11 days ago. Now he’s making his third start in the last five B’s games. He’s responded well in January with a 2-0 record along with a 1.91 goals against average and .938 save percentage, and heads into the Isles game with his confidence at its height.
“It’s a different kind of a year. I remember my first year in the league with the Rangers was the same thing, a lot of games close together because of the Olympic break,” said Johnson. “You rely on the [backup] to give the starter a break, and I knew that was the opportunity for me, and I’m just making the most of it.”
Johnson will be looking to do just that against an Isles team that beat him earlier this season (he's 8-3 on the year) while improving upon his 2.24 goals against average and .918 save percentage this season.