BOSTON – It was slightly surprising that B’s backup netminder Chad Johnson was called for duty on Saturday afternoon given the way things went down against Montreal, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Some thought B’s coach Claude Julien would go right back to Tuukka Rask after pulling him in the second period of the loss to the Habs, but instead he called Johnson’s number for the fourth start in eight games.
So what did Johnson do with another chance to step in and perform for the Black and Gold?
He stopped 22 shots for his first career shutout with the Bruins in a 4-0 win over the Oilers, and improved his record to 10-3 in 16 appearances this season. There wasn’t a bevy of scoring chances for the Oilers in a game that saw them muster just two shots on goal in the first period, but Johnson was willing, ready and able to go the job between the pipes.
He also managed to stone Ales Hemsky on a breakaway for Edmonton’s very first shot of the game five minutes into the first period. Hemsky got behind the Kevan Miller/Torey Krug pairing, but the B’s backup netminder managed to shut off his forehand bid that doubled as one of the Oil’s few scoring chances in the entire game.
After that it was all downhill puck-stopping for Johnson in a game that was tight until the Bruins poured it on with three goals in the third period.
“[The shutout] means a lot. For me, it’s always just about the wins, but I think when you can add a shutout there it’s just kind of like a bonus point for myself,” said Johnson. “To get it at home too, it’ just…it’s nice. It’s always nice to get a shutout.
“I want to get in as many games as I can. I know my role, and it’s not to be in every night, but it’s to be in when sort of called upon. So it’s nice to be able to get in more games and get in there and get more comfortable and just try and help the team win.”
Clearly some of Johnson’s recent playing time is based on performance (a .939 save percentage and 4-0-0 record since Jan. 1), some of it is based on the B’s playing much more air-tight defense in front of him rather than Rask, and some of it is giving the Finnish netminder a break prior to the Winter Olympics.
Rask, meanwhile, has struggled with a 4-4-1 record, a 2.64 goals against average and a .912 save percentage since Jan. 1, and the team hasn’t consistently played well in front of him.
Johnson knew his playing frequency would increase as the season went along, and that’s how it’s playing out this season.
“I just try and be ready for any situation…if it’s playing back-to-back or whatever it is. I look at the calendar a little bit ahead. I try to stay focused on just the present day and sort of tomorrow, so I had no idea that I’d be playing this much,” said Johnson. “But I think when you look at the Olympic break coming up, you know that Tuukka [Rask] might have a little more time off, especially after break as well just with the whole back to backs coming up in March. I try not to look too far ahead.”
What’s amazing is that the 2.14 goals against average and .923 save percentage for Johnson are nearly equal that of Rask four months into the season. That’s something nobody could have guessed when Johnson signed on to be Rask’s backup for minimum money after the Finnish netminder was signed to one of the richest goaltending contracts in NHL history.