Chad Johnson keeping cool in uncertain situation

DJ Bean
January 01, 2014 - 2:54 am

Sometimes, starting goaltenders have to look over their shoulders at a promising backup. Right now Chad Johnson is a backup who might be looking over his shoulder at Niklas Svedberg. 

Johnson is not Anton Khudobin and he certainly isn’t Tuukka Rask, so consider this the first time in a while – minus the brief Marty Turco days, of course – that backup goaltending has even been a question for the Bruins. 

That question popped up last week when the Bruins recalled Svedberg, last year’s AHL goaltender of the year, with the intention of giving him some NHL experience. Johnson was only scratched for one game – last Friday – as the B’s had to send Svedberg down to bring up Zach Trotman following the season-ending torn ACL/MCL suffered by Dennis Seidenberg. Rask ended up starting the game that was expected to be given to Svedberg on Saturday, and Johnson played in relief after Rask was pulled. 

Svedberg didn’t end up getting one of Johnson’s games, but he would have were it not for the Bruins’ injuries. Johnson knows that, but he also knows that the backup job wasn’t necessarily all his when he began the season on the NHL roster. 

“I knew coming in that there was probably going to be a handful of games that they would maybe want to get [Svedberg] in to get him that experience at this level for whatever reason,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I want to play all the time, so if he's getting a start, maybe that means I lost one. Regardless, I know the league and I've been on the other side as well with being in Svedy's situation and having the team kind of want to have you up there and look. It's part of the game, so you've kind of got to deal with it and just kind of do your own thing for the most part. “ 

Johnson, who was signed to a one-year, one-way deal worth $600,000 in the offseason, beat out Svedberg for the backup job with the B’s in training camp, but some rough moments – notably with getting across his net on wraparounds – have provided some cause concern amidst what’s otherwise been an a fine job. 

The Calgary native was hard on himself after a Drew Stafford wraparound goal cost the Bruins the game on Dec. 19 against the Sabres. It was the second wraparound goal Johnson had allowed in a two-game span, so it’s only natural to see the timing of Svedberg’s callup and wonder if the Bruins were reopening the competition for Rask’s backup. 

“I don't think [it's performance-based],” Johnson said. “I think they obviously want [Svedberg] to play well down there and when he's playing well, they want to bring him up to get him in, but for the most part I think I've had a good year. Obviously the one goal there wasn't a good one, but if you get rid of that it would have been a decent game. I think to that point I was [6-1-0], and even now I'm 6-3-0. For myself I think it's still been a good year, but you don't know what they're doing. You can't really think too much into it. All you can do is go out and play hard and do well.”

That’s exactly what Johnson did Saturday in Ottawa in that game he wasn’t supposed to play. Coming on in relief of Rask, Johnson stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced, with only a Bobby Ryan breakaway goal tarnishing his night in the loss. 

Though he’s a backup, that was something with which Johnson actually isn’t too familiar. He played in place of the pulled Rask twice in December (the first time was in Vancouver, when he stopped five of seven shots), but ample experience as an AHL starter meant the 27-year-old Johnson wasn’t used to entering games cold before he got to Boston. By his estimation, it had been two or three years since he had played in relief. 

“I think Vancouver helped me out, especially [in Ottawa], just being able to go in in a cold situation, because it's different,” Johnson admitted. “You're sitting on the bench, just kind of still for sometimes 40 minutes to an hour and a half. I think being able to have that Vancouver game and that experience helped me the last time I went in here to be ready and just know the feeling you're going to have going into it.”

Claude Julien said Tuesday that Svedberg is “definitely going to see some games,” noting that Svedberg deserves it and that it makes sense for the team to see what they have in what they hope is a group of NHL-caliber goaltenders. If the Bruins at any point decided to keep Svedberg up and try to send Johnson to Providence, they would need to place him on waivers and would risk losing him. 

Johnson doesn’t worry about that, saying he tries to avoid the hypotheticals of life as a backup. The one thing that he does know is that the B’s have kept him in the loop every step of the way since he signed and that he’s happy with where things stand. 

“They always have good communication. I'm a part of this team and I know that Svedy's down there and he's a young guy that they want to get in games and take a look at,” Johnson said. “There's always communication, and the organization's really good about letting me know what's happening if they bring him up or what's going to be going on with playing and stuff like that. 

“They're always very open about that. They never leave me in the dark or Tuukka in the dark. We have a good relationship, me and Tuukka. He's the starter, I'm the backup and that's kind of where it's at.”