Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making the Most of your Opportunites

Since the 2002-03 campaign, Brent Johnson has never started more than 35 games in a year. The past 5 NHL seasons, Johnson has been a career back-up, as well as a journey man, making brief stops in Phoenix and Vancouver before being claimed off waivers by Washington in October 2004.

A gamble that paid off for the Capitals, as former "sure bet" prospect Maxime Ouellet never paned out and now finds himself playing in a Senior A League in Quebec.

But ever since his inception to the NHL ranks with the St. Louis Blues, Johnson has always been pushed by competition in the pipes. Whether it was Roman Turek, Fred Brathwaite or Chris Osgood, Johnson was never able to take the reigns as a legitimate number one starter. In his time in The Gateway City, he never received more than 58 starts in a year, but also never registered a GAA of over 2.50.

Johnson was finally moved the year before the lockout as the Blues continued trying to straighten out their goalie carousel. When he finally landed in Washington, he came to a team in the early stages of a rebuilding process [his stats show how grueling the rebuild was] and at this point was looked at as no more than a career back-up.

Finally this season, Brent Johnson is getting the chance to fuel a competition for the starting job.

Jose Theodore was signed by the Capitals this summer and has failed to meet expectations up to date. His .885 SV% has been less than adequate and his 2-3-0 record is not what Washington is looking for coming out of the gates.

In an attempt to inspire his team, coach Bruce Boudreau called on the 31 year old Johnson to start a handful of games, and Johnson accepted the role and hasn't look back.

To date he has registered a 4-1-2 record, his only regulation loss coming in the Capitals season opener where he came in relief of Jose Theodore.

His scintillating .931 SV% is ranked 3rd in the league as he ranks 5th with a GAA of 2.11.

It might be early yet, but it certainly seems that Johnson still has all the tools to become a number one goaltender, and that he is finally being given the chance to put them all together.

"I think its confidence," Boudreau said of Johnson. "He's in the last year of his deal. He loves the area. He loves being a Capital. He knows he's got a great chance and a great opportunity. A new guy has come in, and granted, he's probably going to be the No. 1 guy when it's all said and done. But it's not like Olie, where you knew he was always going to be the guy. So Johnson kind of has that spring in his step." "I want to get Jose back in there, but it's tough to take [Johnson] out when he's playing that well," he added.

While there is little certainty at this point, it appears this will be an interesting season in the crease.

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