As we head into live hockey, it’s time to turn our attention to goalies, and that means first up…
Last year: 19 games, 7-8-2, 2.67, .908
Career average (per-60 appearances):
27-23-3-3, 2.62. ,902, 3 SO
Feerless’ Take: In last year’s benchmarks on goaltending, cuz, you said, “Playoff aspirants can’t afford to give away games when the number one goaltender isn’t on the ice.” Well, last year was Johnson's best in three years in Washington. His GAA was almost a full goal-per-game under his 2006-2007 production, and his save percentage was 19 points above the previous year. Here’s the thing, though – he had a nightmare of a game against the Sabres in early October (seven goals on 53 shots – it was a bad night for the Caps all around), but in 17 appearances after that, he gave up more than three goals only three times. Only seven times in those 19 total appearances did he give up more than two goals. Although his record only said 7-8-2, he was giving his team a chance to win in most of his appearances. Like any reliever, that’s what you ask for in terms of performance – give your teammates a chance to win.
Cheerless’ Take: 19 games, huh? Yeah, that’s the number he appeared in, and it’s also the number of consecutive games to close the season that he didn’t appear in (or dress for, for the most part). Sure, having Olaf Kolzig wearing the baseball cap was something of a luxury, but that’s still a lot of games to sit, even for a backup-backup. He also didn’t have a win after February 5th last year (coincidentally, it was that win that put the Caps over .500 for good). That means for the last third of the season – a little more, actually – he did not contribute a win.
The Peerless’ Take: Only once in eight seasons has Johnson played in more than half of his team’s games. He hasn’t played more than 30 games in a season since the 2002-2003 season. In the event of an injury to Jose Theodore, the immediate question becomes, “can he handle the load?” Well, here is the odd part about that…in the three years of his career in which he did play more than 30 games, he was above .500 in each year, he had a GAA below 2.50 in each year, and he had a save percentage of at least .900 in each year. In the five seasons he has played 30 games or fewer, he is below .500 in four of them, and he had a GAA of more than 2.50 in four of them (adding to the oddity, his save percentage is slightly higher in those seasons than his high-minute volume seasons). Part of this distinction is that the high volume years are all pre-lockout (the dark ages of offensive hockey), while the low minute volume years are primarily after (with the Caps).
Johnson might not be a 60-game, 3,500 minute goalie (he’s never done either in a season), but he might be someone who can contribute for long stretches, accumulating 30-40 appearances, if need be. However, he seems to have adjusted to his role over the past couple of years, performing better in a backup role than he did early in his tenure in Washington. If he can contribute a .500 season in 20-25 appearances, the Caps are more likely than not to be a playoff team this year.
Projected: 10-9-2, 2.59, .908