DETROIT – Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson was clearly pleased with putting his best foot forward in his first full preseason game by pitching a shutout against the Detroit Red Wings.
The 27-year-old Johnson made 19 saves in the 2-0 preseason victory over the Winged Wheels at Joe Louis Arena, and helped backstop a nice, solid response to the eight goal drubbing they suffered at the hands of Detroit on Thursday night at home. But the victory and accompanying excellent performance wasn’t especially notable for Johnson, who clearly wasn’t feeling the heat of a training competition to be Tuukka Rask’s backup this season.
“It was a better game to get settled into and it was a good turnout in the end,” said Johnson. “For the most part I know that I can play, so it’s not proving it to me that I can do it. Maybe it’s proving it to [the media] or proving to the organization that I can play at this level.
“Obviously the first game wasn’t very good, but it’s exhibition season. The real test is always in the season. I didn’t play well in Montreal, and I did play well tonight. I think they know what I can do, so these exhibition games are just a building block for the season.”
Johnson actually did have a couple of moments of shakiness early in the contest while missing with a glove save attempt on a Johan Franzen shot, and then misplaying a puck behind the net. But he shook that off with a little help from the defense in front of him, and then shut down the Wings offense until his own players could generate a couple of goals. Johnson turned away a Joakim Andersson shot in the first period during a 2-on-1 break for Detroit, and stoned Gustav Nyquist on a pair of shots after he broke through the Boston defense in the second period.
In all Johnson stopped 19 shots and showed what kind of difference an experienced goaltending hand can make after Malcolm Subban’s rough outing earlier in the week.
“Half of a game doesn’t make a career either way, right? But he was able to redeem himself tonight,” said Claude Julien. “Although we played well in front of him, there were a lot of tough shots with a lot of traffic and screens.
“From the screen you could see the shots getting in there and all of a sudden the pad would come out. He made all the saves that he had to make, and he was much better.”
The .929 career save percentage and 1.97 goals against average in 10 career games speak to Johnson’s self-confidence about playing at the NHL level, but he will have to prove it since he’s never served as even a backup goaltender for a full season.
Johnson made a nice step toward doing just that by playing flawlessly between the pipes on Saturday night in Motown.
A few more games like that and Johnson will have his spot locked up on Boston’s roster for this season.