Johnson wants to be more than 'Ocho' to Bruins

Johnson wants to be more than 'Ocho' to Bruins
September 4, 2013, 5:30 pm
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WILMINGTON – First, let’s get this out of the way: new Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson has answered to the nickname “Ocho” in the past.

As in the Cincinnati Bengals/New England Patriots wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson, but better known to the football world as “Ochocinco.”

“They definitely called me ‘Ocho’ when I was in the Rangers organization,” said Johnson. “Kind of just goes along with the name, I guess.”

The whole thing has died down in the last couple of years as the aging “Ochocinco” has fallen off the NFL map, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see that moniker reemerge in the B’s dressing room this winter.

That would be just fine for the 27-year-old Johnson, who has amassed 10 games of NHL experience over the last four years during stints with the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes. But in those organizations he was stuck behind Henrik Lundqvist and Mike Smith, and never really got a chance to establish himself as an NHL-caliber goaltender.

It’s the same exact situation that Anton Khudobin found himself in prior to last season with a handful of games played for the Wild and Bruins. So now Johnson hopes to follow in the footsteps of Khudobin, and use an opportunity as Tuukka Rask’s backup to prove his mettle as an NHL puck-stopper.

Given Claude Julien’s tendency to rest his starting goaltender more than the average NHL coach, Johnson could stand to play something in the neighborhood of 20-25 games as Rask’s understudy if he’s performing at an optimal level.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve established myself as an NHL goaltender at all. I think it takes five or six years before you really feel like you’re established,” said Johnson. “I think I’ve performed well in the NHL games that I have played over the years, but this is definitely going to be my best opportunity to try and establish myself at the NHL level.

“I’m coming into camp just looking to earn a spot. For me it will really be about getting into a routine at the NHL level, and getting comfortable in an everyday routine as Tuukka’s backup. That will be the key as far as I’m concerned.”

Johnson said he had no real connections to the Bruins organization other than his father having been a huge Bobby Orr fan growing up in Alberta, but that he was looking forward to playing for one of the NHL’s top teams.

“I had one of my first exhibition game experiences at [TD Garden], so there’s a little bit of a connection,” said Johnson. “It’s more about just being excited at being part of a first class organization.”

Johnson’s numbers have been excellent in his limited chances with the Rags and the Desert Dogs: a 1.97 goals against average and .929 save percentage in 10 NHL games is pretty impressive. But nonetheless Johnson will have competition in camp to be Rask’s understudy with 23-year-old Swedish standout Niklas Svedberg also in camp after stellar debut AHL season.

Johnson signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Bruins in July, so it’s conceivable he could be in Providence with Malcolm Subban if Svedberg show’s something special over the next few weeks. But it would appear, at this point, that Johnson has the inside track to the backup goaltending gig, and his B’s teammates will have a lot of fun getting creative with the “Ocho” nicknames.