Friday, January 25, 2008

Revisiting a Benchmark

Last August, when pondering "benchmarks" and their usefulness to gauging the Caps' playoff hopes, we asked this about goaltending...

" is apparent that the Caps are going to have to get production from the backup goaltending position, if not have a backup who can assume the top job for significant stretches. Is Brent Johnson that backup?"

Well, look at this, then you tell me...

First 21 games:

Caps' record: 6-14-1 (13 points)
Johnson's record: 7 games, 1-4-1, 3.19, .894

Last 29 games:

Caps' record: 17-8-4 (38 points)
Johnson's record: 7 games, 5-1-0, 2.05, .926

It is plain that Johnson has not only been a dependable backup since Thanksgiving, he's been downright dazzling, for the most part, despite being injured for a part of this run. It is a significant development, since we also said last August...

"...unless Kolzig simply forgets how to strap on his pads (he should be a constant in the games he plays), Johnson is the key. Playoff aspirants can’t afford to give away games when the number one goaltender isn’t on the ice."

We took a look at backups for playoff teams last year and found that...

-- None of the ten goalies who played more than 20 games in this group (except for Marc Denis, who was demoted) had a below-.500 record.

-- None of the ten goalies who played more than 20 games (again, except Denis) had a goal-against of more than 3.00

-- Only two of the ten goalies in this group who played more than 20 games had a save percentage below .900 (Denis and Johan Hedberg)

Johnson has exceeded those benchmarks by far in the Caps strong run since late-November, and in fact has been there to pick up the club when Olaf Kolzig has occasionally had difficulty finding his "A" game. It has been an important ingredient in a point we were trying to make...

"...if a backup is going to be playing significant time, and the history of the past several years with the Caps indicates that he will, then he needs to provide a consistent (despite his still intermittent appearances) level of play. Johnson will need to improve on his numbers for the Caps to have realistic playoff aspirations. Part of that will be the improvement in the play around him – the Caps did upgrade at several positions and should see further development at others. Part of that will be Johnson improving, too. That could be the key to solid overall goaltending this year."

Johnson has improved on his numbers, and his continuing this strong play will be an important factor in the Caps stretch drive.

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