The Boston Bruins are your defending Eastern Conference champions, with a Vezina Trophy nominee in tow for the next eight years.
Previewing the goaltending situation for the 2013-14 NHL season should be a breeze then, right?
Well, yes and no.
First, let's talk about Tuukka. Last season, he went 19-10-5 with a Sv% of .929 and a 2.00 GAA. In the playoffs, he posted a record of 14-8, and improved his numbers to the tune of a .940 Sv% and a 1.88 GAA (with two late goals in Game 6 being just enough to devastate the Bruins Cup chances). As a result, he earned himself a nice little eight-year, $56-million contract extension, making him THE man in the Bruins net for the foreseeable future.
And nobody seriously doubts that Rask is up the challenge. He's been tagged as the starter since all the way back to 2009, and is now in a position to unquestioningly and effectively carry the load, especially after what he did last season.
Having said that, there is one caveat to consider: Rask hasn't appeared in more than 45 games in a single season. Ever. In fact, he's only appeared in 138 games total, with 126 NHL starts under his belt. Yes, this can be attributed to Tim Thomas' presence in the Bruins lineup and last year's lockout, and not necessarily due to any fault of Rask's. But in the last full NHL season, the three Vezina candidate - Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick - each appeared in 62, 73 and 69 games respectively, and Rask should approach if not eclipse those totals because, well, his backup probably can't / shouldn't be relied upon to start more than a dozen games (more on that in a minute).
A 126 start sample size (with a career .927 Sv% and 2.15 GAA) isn't anything to sneeze at, and it gives a reasonable idea of what to expect from the 26-year old. However, his single-season workload is bound to increase this season, and perhaps dramatically so; and there's no precedent on Rask's resume in relation to the specific task of carrying the load as a number one goalie over the course of a full season.
His overall career arc suggests he can handle it, but if not ... there's always this guy, right?
Here's the facts. Chad Johnson is a 27-year old goaltender with a total of 10 NHL appearances under his belt, including eight starts - four with the New York Rangers in 2009-10, four with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2012-13.
His numbers from last season are good (2-0-2, .954, 1.22), but I REPEAT, he played in only four games.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Johnson quite simply hasn't been able to establish and distinguish himself as an NHL goaltender. And let's be honest, the main reason he's in Boston to start the season is because he was signed to a one-way, $600,000 deal, whereas the (more attractive) alternative - Niklas Svedberg - can play in the A for a paltry $70,000 instead of the $925,000 he'd be owed at the NHL level.
Personally, if Johnson remains the backup for the entire season (about those Theodore rumors ... ), then I'd prefer not to see him make more than 10-12 starts.
You're either a hero or an asshole.
So basically in Tuukka we trust, because it's Tuukka or bust.
And there's every reason to believe that Rask is up to the task and will once again be in the Vezina conversation, especially if he continues to live by that oh so awesome quote.