With the Olympics looming and Lundqvist making double digit consecutive starts before last night (17 in a row), it seemed that John Tortorella was never going to have confidence in another goaltender. Chad Johnson changed that last night. After boasting an incredible game against one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, it would seem as though Tortorella would have to change his tune on back-up goaltenders.
What I mean by that, of course, is that Tortorella is going to have to start the kid some more. Johnson was simply spectacular for the New York Rangers, and it could not have come at a better time. With the Olympics right around the corner and Henrik Lundqvist locked in as a starter for team Sweden, one would assume that Tortorella would like to get his top-flight goaltender some well deserved rest.
But with Stephen Valiquette doing his best Rick Dipietro impression there was no goalie that Torts could lean on to help out Lundqvist. And after Valiquette was waived Torts seemed less than thrilled to start the 23 year-old rookie in any situation. Hopefully that changed after last night.
Now I know it has only been one game (well, maybe one and a half) but to be honest if Johnson would have been wearing Lundqvist's equipment I would not have been able to tell the difference. He made quite a few glorious saves, which is impressive enough, but it was the "regular saves" that impressed me. He had no problem turning away Ilya Kovalchuk with his glove, or Evander Kane with his blocker on a semi-breakaway. He took angles away brilliantly, and kept himself "big in the net," and simply enough when the Rangers needed a huge save or even just a big save (which was pretty regular last night) he was there. Is there anything else you can ask for from a back-up, especially a rookie?
Join me after the jump for some awesome quotes from Andrew Gross from Chad Johnson.
Over at Rangers Rants Andrew Gross has a fantastic interview (what else is new?) with Johnson at the end of his game recap. Visit the site for the full story (trust me there is a ton more than I am putting in this story) but here are some personal highlights:
Meanwhile, here was Chad Johnson’s reaction to his 31-save performance.
"I’m disappointed right now," he said. "When I let everything settle in and realize that was my first start, I think I played pretty strong. I’ll go over the tape with Benny (goalie coach Benoit Allaire) and analyze how he thought I played. I think it was just a solid game but I would have liked the two points."
"The first five minutes I got out there I was a little nervous," Johnson said. "But it’s just hockey like any other level, obviously a llot quicker. My job is the same, it doesn’t matter what level. I think I settled down after the first five minutes."
While his diving stick save on Nick Peverely will no doubt wind up on all the highlight shows, Johnson was less impressed with that play.
"It was just desperation," Johnson said. "When Benny goes over it he’ll be disappointed, he doesn’t like anybody to sprawl. I went down too soon on the first shot and committed on him. I didn’t see the guy back door off the bench."
Like I said before go to the main story, I'll link it again here, for the whole thing. Personally I like how poised he is even after an awesome preformace. Hopefully Tortorella will see the same things we do, and will start giving Lundqvist some breathing room.
Just to do a quick number crunch here:
- The Rangers have 18 games before the start of the Olympics.
- Henrik Lundqvist started 17 games in a row before last night.
- At that pace he would only rest once before the Olympic "break" begins for the Rangers on Febuary 15th.
- Henrik Lundqvist could see as many as 6 starts in the Olympics (if they go all the way to the gold medal game) before returning March 2nd, to play the Senators.
Those figures above speak for themselves. Honestly I think that Johnson should see at least 7 starts of those 18 games, if nothing else than to off-set the potential 6 Lundqvist might be playing in Vancouver.
Here are just a few saves that I thought were telling of the type of skill that this kid has:
This is a pretty hot topic right now so what are your thoughts?