When the Bruins signed Chad Johnson before the season, plenty of people wrote off the acquisition. There was far from a consensus that the career backup would make the big team.
Through more than a third of the season, however, Johnson is looking like quite the pickup.
It’s not easy to be a backup goaltender in the NHL, but Johnson has flourished in the role with the Bruins. The 27-year-old arguably had his finest showing of the season Thursday night in Edmonton, where he stopped a career-high 39 saves in a 4-2 Boston win over the Oilers.
Johnson now is 6-1-0 on the season and has won five consecutive starts after losing Nov. 2 against the Islanders. His save percentage during that stretch is over .900, putting Johnson’s season mark at .928. For a little bit of context, Tuukka Rask‘s save percentage sits at .935, which means the Bruins have one of the league’s best goaltending tandems right now.
Johnson was especially stellar Thursday night. Staked to a 3-0 lead after the first period, Johnson was tested mightily in the second and third periods. He gave up two tough goals to David Perron in the second period, including an ugly wraparound goal that Johnson should have had. The two goals certainly gave the Oilers some momentum as they came out firing in the third period.
That’s when Johnson was at his best. He was under siege all period, as Edmonton peppered him with 13 shots, but Johnson stopped them all. With the Bruins struggling at the other end — managing just three shots on goal — Johnson stood on his head. His best save of the night might have come early in the third when he robbed Nail Yakupov with a beautiful glove save at 4:43 of the period. That appeared to be a confidence-booster for Johnson, who was at his best when it mattered most.
“I thought we came out pretty strong, they just didn’t have any quit,” Johnson told NESN’s Jamie Erdahl. “They’re a team that likes to play on the rush. They kind of just threw pucks on the net and had a lot of guys driving. It was a little bit of a scrambley game, but we got the two points, so it was nice. ”
Johnson was far from alone in stepping up. It was another pretty remarkable team effort. The Bruins, who are battered and bruised, aren’t being helped by the fact that the flu is making its way through the dressing room. Johnson, who was supposed to start Tuesday in Calgary before he was felled by the flu, went Thursday because Rask had come down with that bug. Johnson, quite literally the next man up, entered the crease and helped the Bruins push their winning streak to four games.
“We had a shortened bench tonight and guys aren’t 100 percent,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told Erdahl. “So we didn’t have the energy to finish that 60 minutes, but I think we showed the character to finish that 60.
“I’m happy with the win because of the circumstances we’re in. ”
Once again, the Bruins found a way to win, and Johnson arguably was the biggest reason for that.