Chad Johnson of the Boston Bruins may have one of the tougher jobs heading into the 2013-14 NHL season.
For the last few years the Boston Bruins have been in the enviable position of icing two starting-caliber netminders whenever they practiced or took the ice for a game. Perhaps only the St. Louis Blues could have matched Boston’s depth in net in years gone by. Things have slowly changed for the B’s though.
It used to be Tuukka Rask backing up Tim Thomas. Rask was every bit as good then as he is now, and Thomas was posting Jonathan Quick-like numbers. Then Rask stepped up in the wake of Thomas taking a one-year hiatus, and his backup was outstanding.
Anton Khudobin was arguably one of the best No. 2 options in the NHL last season, and played his way to a solid contract with the Carolina Hurricanes.
With the cap coming down and the B’s needing to keep several key players, they were forced to downgrade the backup position. Viewing as Johnson as anything but a downgrade at this point is to view things through black and yellow tinted glasses. He has all of ten NHL games worth of experience and hasn’t exactly blown away the competition at any level.
He’s been trying to stick with a professional team since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2006. Johnson has a lot of AHL experience, but he’s lacking against the big guns of the NHL. While he was outstanding through four starts for the Phoenix Coyotes last season, no one should be expecting him to step in and maintain a 1.21 GAA.
We’ve seen a trend in the NHL this season of coaches starting their backups in tougher games than usual. The Colorado Avalanche are a strong example. J.S. Giguere got the nod against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night and shut them out. Semyon Varlamov was perfectly well rested and capable of going against the vaunted Penguins attack.
Coach Patrick Roy decided to go with Giguere though, and was rewarded with a shutout from his backup against the second-best team in the league.
The Bruins, on the other hand, are likely to give Johnson his first start of the season against the Buffalo Sabres, according to the Boston Herald. Coach Claude Julien spoke to the Herald about getting Johnson a start against Buffalo: “We’ll probably give him a shot there at some point, and Buffalo may be one of the games we give him.”
Not exactly the confidence builder Johnson could use in the early going with his new team in Boston.