The Backup Conundrum

One of the most important players who’s performance is critical for the New York Islanders to win the division and take home ice is someone other than John Tavares or even Jaroslav Halak, in fact it’s Chad Johnson.

Up until now Chad Johnson has played just 15 games as the backup to Halak and woeful hasn’t been the word. So far he has put up the worst stats of any goaltender to play 15+ games in the league with a .873 3.33GAA record which is partly inflated by his rare good showing against his former team in Boston last week.

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  • His lack of form saw coaching lose confidence in him and they were forced to play starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak in more games which lead to injury in December and a general loss of form in recent months as it is obvious that he is being run into the ground. The way things are going the Islanders are risking major injury to Halak if he doesn’t get more nights off, just ask Tampa Bay of the importance of backup goaltending after Ben Bishop got injured on the eve of the play offs last season.

    A rested and in form Halak is one key to post season success and the form of Johnson from now until April will be critical to that, with 3 sets of back to back games in February alone Johnson will be getting his fair share of games and he simply has to improve. Nobody is expecting Vezina quality from him but simply average goaltending would mean the Islanders would win more games than they lost and this would lighten the load on Halak.

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    Understandably some fans have lost patience with Johnson and are calling for a trade for somebody else but at this point in the season I can’t see the Islanders sending a draft pick away for someone who will only play 7 or 8 games, especially with the teams lack of draft picks in the upcoming draft. This, along with the only other option being the erratic Kevin Poulin, means that Johnson will still be the backup from here onwards and it is on him to turn his form around.

    His 34 save performance in Boston shows that he is capable of strong performances but if he cannot find a way to maintain performances like that it runs the risk of putting what could be a magical post season run in major difficulty if Halak is forced to shoulder the load during the run in, we saw what happened to Evgeni Nabokov when we rode him during the last month of the 2013 season and a repeat of that could be fatal, especially in the suddenly ultra competitive Eastern Conference.