From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. Next up, Brent Johnson.
#1 / Goalie / Washington Capitals
Mar 12, 1977
UFA; $812,500 cap hit in 2008-09
Key Stats: Johnson had a better winning percentage, goals against average and save percentage than Jose Theodore in 2008-09.
Interesting Stats: Johnson had a better even strength save percentage than Henrik Lundqvist and Evgeni Nabokov (among others, including the other three netminders the Caps used in 2008-09) and a better shorthanded save percentage than Nabokov, Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur.
The Good: Simply put, Brent Johnson stepped up his game when the Caps needed him most, going 9-3-2/2.23/.927 (including a five- and a four-game win streak) in a stretch from October 13 through December 12 as Jose Theodore struggled to find his game (going 7-6-1/2.98/.893 over the same span), leading some to wonder aloud whether or not Johnson could be the guy. In his first 15 starts of the season, Johnson allowed more than three goals just once and more than two goals just five times, a recipe for success on a team that scores in bunches - and success is exactly what Johnson has had (when he has played) under Bruce Boudreau, compiling an 18-10-3/2.65/.912 record since the guy who doesn't understand the position relieved the former goalie behind the bench. In fact, prior to his last three games of this past season - games that were as painful to watch as they probably were for Johnny to play - he had given up more than three goals in just three of 27 starts with Gabby at the helm. Rounding third and heading for home, Johnson had the second-best save percentage of his career in 2008-09 and had an absolutely sparkling 9-0-1/2.08/.932 mark at the Verizon Center.
The Bad: Johnson has appeared in just 40 games over the past two seasons, the victim of an over-crowded crease in the spring of 2008 and a bum hip that sidelined him for 30 games and the playoffs in 2009 (depriving us all of a backup goalie controversy). In his final four starts of the season, Johnny was 2-2-0/4.36/.858 and clearly playing hurt (and killing his season stats, which sat at 10-4-2/2.46/.920 prior to those appearances), and as good as he was at home, he was that bad on the road, to the tune of 3-6-1/3.65/.882.
Lastly, the Caps surrendered more goals per sixty minutes of four-on-five time with Johnson in goal than with any of the other goalies between the pipes - 16% more than with Theo in goal and a whopping 83% (give or take a point or two) for each of the youngsters. Some of that obviously isn't on Johnny - the Caps allowed more shots on goal per sixty minutes four-on-five with Johnson in net than any team but one allowed a goalie who played 20 games or more to face (of course, rebounds allowed contribute to increased shots against) - but the result is that Johnson had the ninth-worst GAON/60 in the League four-on-five (minimum 20 games played). And yet, the penalty kill was 79.8% effective with Johnson in goal - not too far under the team's season average of 80.6%.
The Vote: Rate Johnson below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: If the Caps could move Theodore in the offseason, would you be comfortable with the team re-signing Johnson as the lone veteran netminder (at a savings of more than $3 million)? Is there a chance Johnson makes the Caps next season with Theo still on the roster, and, if so, what would it take for him to earn a 10?