Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

3,000 Miles to go for a Shutout: Chad Johnson

The Phoenix Coyotes win the "first goalie ouch of the season", with Mike Smith on the IR with a "lower body injury". Mike Smith may be coming back later this week, but in the meantime, the Coyotes had to go to plan B, which in this case was first Jason "still here!" LaBarbera, and then to Chad Johnson, who's been playing for the Coyotes AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine. That's a long way for a goalie to travel, geographically or otherwise.

Having a goalie go down in a regular season is a problem, but if you have a backup who can come in and play for a week while you're sorting things out, you're in the clear; you bring up a backup from the AHL and let him keep notes and collect NHL meal money. In a compressed season, you're both weighing the chance that your backup will get hurt playing too many games over a short period of time, and whether your hot spare in the AHL can do the job of the backup, and play that third game in four nights.

Your nightmare? The hot spare turns out to not be so hot, and you either take the shellacking or take your chances that your backup can come in and not only save the game, but not get hurt doing so.

Your dream? The goalie comes in a shuts down the opposition, which is what Chad Johnson did in his first NHL start in over two years. Johnson came out of the New York Rangers system after originally being drafted by the Penguins, and was signed as a free agent by the Coyotes over the past Summer.

Earth shattering? Well,  no, but in a season where a team can't hit many potholes and expect a post-season berth, having a fundamentally sound hot spare in the AHL is a good thing. And for the Coyotes, having someone who can step up may make that difference.

Johnson also fits the current physical type the NHL is looking for, at 6ft 3 and 215 lbs, and in these days of having goalies well into their 30's, a 26 year old isn't "too old" to have a future in the NHL.

So, at least on the goalie front, the Coyotes can breathe a little easier.

From nhl.com via the Candian Press:

 

Before each game, Chad Johnson sits alone in the stands behind the net and visualizes the upcoming matchup.

 

The 26-year-old goalie could hardly have imagined anything better than what transpired for him and his teammates on Monday night.

 

Johnson, called up last week after Mike Smith was hurt, earned his first NHL shutout in his Phoenix debut and the Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators 4-0.

Johnson had 21 saves in a game dominated defensively by a Coyotes team finally playing the style that led them to the Western Conference finals a year ago. Phoenix entered the night allowing an NHL-high 20 goals in five games.

 

"You're taking a chance on a young guy but he stepped in and played real solid," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Nothing fancy, just solid, and I thought our team played solid in front of him."

Johnson's twin brother and parents were watching him in an NHL game for the first time.

 

"I'm sure they're pretty happy," he said. "My mom might be crying a little bit."

Keith Yandle had a power-play goal and two assists and Nick Johnson a goal and one assist. Antoine Vermette and Laurie Korpikoski also scored in the Coyotes' second win in six games.

 

Nashville got just three shots on goal in the first period, allowing Johnson to ease into his role.

"I thought he was great," Yandle said. "He controlled the rebound. He looked calm in there. Anytime there was a rebound he grabbed it and sucked it in. He played like a guy who's been around a long time."

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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies

23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.

On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.

I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.

We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.

It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!