I’ll officially eat crow on this one. Multiple times this offseason, I predicted Niklas Svedberg would win the backup goalie position for the Boston Bruins. His preseason numbers seemed to imply this was becoming closer to reality. However, the team announced this weekend that Chad Johnson, he of the ten NHL games worth of experience, has won the right to back up starter Tuukka Rask.
Color me surprised. Of the two goalies, Svedberg seemed to have the better preseason. Though he lacks any experience in the big league, his play during the AHL playoffs last season for the Providence Bruins made him a favorite to get time with Boston this year. He, along with Bruins’ 2012 draft pick Malcolm Subban, were sent down to Providence over the weekend.
In speaking with ESPN Boston, acknowledged that he knew coach Claude Julien and the rest of the front office had a tough call on their hands.
“This was my goal, obviously, coming into camp to be with this club,” Johnson said. “I’m happy. I’m excited. It was a tough camp. Svedberg played great and had great camp, too. It was obviously a tough decision. We both played well. I’m happy I’m here. It was a tough camp, but it’s kind of like the easy part is over because you’ve got to play well during the season. I’m excited for it and I’ll focus on the day-to-day. It’s a tough league. The best players are here and this is where I want to be.”
Now that everyone will be playing a full 82 game season, its imperative to make sure Rask gets enough rest throughout the year. Many a team has seen what can happen if their number one goalie is too burnt out come postseason. Usually, those are the teams that don’t survive much longer than a round. Therefore, Johnson will definitely need to hold his own when given the chance to start.
Either way, the Bruins have to feel good about their prospects in case Johnson can’t get the job done. There are many training camp battles that yield nothing but positives if everyone is performing well, and netminder happens to be one of the biggest. For Rask’s sake, they better hope Johnson can give him enough breathers.