Earlier this year, Chad Johnson took over the Flames’ starting gig from the struggling Brian Elliott. Johnson played exceptionally well, and some suggested he might’ve saved Calgary’s season.
So, could the Flames go back to the well and climb out of this playoff hole?
They might have to.
Stream Ducks vs. Flames: Game 4 on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, USA)
Elliott looked shaky in Monday’s 5-4 OT loss to the Ducks, one that put the Flames on the brink of elimination. He was unable to close the door after his teammates raced out to a 4-1 lead, and the unraveling began with this Shea Theodore marker late in the second period:
It ended with another odorous goal in OT, one in which Elliott’s rebound ricocheted off teammate Michael Stone and into the back of the net.
“It’s not an easy [loss], especially personally,” Elliott said following the game, per the Herald. “I didn’t feel I played very well. I let the team down a little bit. It’s tough to lose off a bounce like that.
“You want to help the team more than you hurt it. It’s tough to swallow right now. The guys spotted four goals, and we should win a game like that.”
Elliott’s numbers have steadily declined as the series has progressed. After making 38 saves on 41 shots in the opener — a .927 save percentage — he’s since allowed eight goals on 48 shots.
An .833 save percentage.
It’s not just the numbers, either. Onlookers noticed that Elliott looked shaky throughout Game 3, suggesting that Anaheim’s comeback strategy consisted of throwing pucks on net, and seeing what Elliott could stop. Clearly, it worked. Theodore’s 4-2 goal game from a bad angle, and Perry’s OT winner was flung on Elliott from a distance.
So… what about Johnson?
Though he’s never played in the playoffs before, the 30-year-old has proven capable of filling the starter’s gig. He was solid in Buffalo two years ago — 22 wins, .920 save percentage, 2.36 GAA — and, as mentioned above, played very well in a No. 1 capacity earlier this season, when head coach Glen Gulutzan adopted a “win and you’re in” strategy for his netminders.
Johnson’s best stretch came in November, when he went 7-3-0 with a .939 save percentage. It allowed the Flames to survive Elliott’s early struggles, and get back into the playoffs after missing last year.
Now, they might need to rely on Johnson yet again.