GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Tuukka Rask coming back from Sochi, Russia, and a demanding March schedule in which the Bruins play 17 games, the Bruins could have been in trouble. They could have overextended their starting goaltender, a bad idea in the face of a potentially arduous playoff run. Or they could have had to rely on an inconsistent backup, worrying every time he was sent out to play.
Instead, the Bruins have Chad Johnson, who recorded his second shutout of the season, stoning the host Avalanche, 2-0, on Friday night. It was the first time that Colorado had been shut out this season.
With the win, Johnson improved his record to 16-3-1 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. He is 10-0-1 in his last 11 decisions, having allowed two or fewer goals in nine of them.
Not bad for a backup.
Johnson, 27, came into this season with only 10 NHL games to his record. He has appeared in 23 in this his first with the Bruins, and has done everything the Bruins could have asked.
“I feel good,” Johnson said. “It’s just nice to feel like I did and help the team win. My mind-set coming in was just to get in there and when I’m playing to try and just help the team win and win as many games as I can and just be there to try and help the team be in a position to win hockey games.
“It’s gone well so far, just want to try and keep it going for the guys.”
It wasn’t perfect Friday. Johnson allowed a few too many rebounds, pucks that the Avalanche just couldn’t clean up. But as the Bruins did as a team, Johnson also got better throughout the game, withstanding a five-minute 6 on 5 at the end of the game when Colorado pulled its goalie.
“To be in front of these guys with such good systems and a good D corps and offensive players that want to play defense, too, it helps me out a lot and helps the goalies out and our whole team,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to play in front of our team when we’re so committed defensively. We’re out there to win and we expect to win.”
Hamilton fired up
Dougie Hamilton played well on Friday night, helping the Bruins shut out the potent Avalanche. It was his fifth consecutive game since sitting out against Florida and Montreal on March 9 and 12. He added the primary assist on the Bruins’ first goal, and the secondary assist on their second.
Hamilton picked up another assist Saturday night in the Bruins’ 4-2 victory, helping on Jarome Iginla’s tying goal in the third.
“Factoring in goals is not surprising to me,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He’s got a good head and he sees the plays well, and great pass on that first goal there. But defensively, like a lot of guys, he just got better as the game went on. When he got into battles and he had to compete against some pretty good players on the other side. They’re a young team and he’s a young player, so it was a good challenge for him.”
It’s a team with a lot of speed, something that Hamilton said they anticipated coming into the game, knowing the challenge ahead of them — and ahead of him.
Being challenged, it seems, has affected Hamilton and the other young defensemen. Being in the lineup is no longer a given, and Hamilton has taken the messages from the coaching staff to heart.
“I think it was try to be more physical and I think it’s a different situation when you know that there’s guys that are going to play,” Hamilton said. “I think every game you kind of focus on trying to do your best so that you’re not out of the lineup. Sometimes that can be tough, but sometimes good.
“Just for me, I think just trying to play more physical, especially with Johnny [Boychuk] out the last couple games, getting some opportunities to play with empty net and last minutes and stuff, where I didn’t really have that before, so it’s a new challenge and it’s fun to be able to do that stuff.”
Boychuk, who hadn’t played since crashing awkwardly into the boards March 15, returned to action Saturday in Phoenix. He played 22:58, second behind Chara (23:20), on the Bruins, with three blocked shots.
“You watch the team play and you just want to get out there and help them,’’ Boychuk said. “They were doing a good job, but it’s not fun watching the game. I’d way rather be back on the ice. I’m glad that I’m back.
“I watched it — it looked absolutely terrible. I got a picture from Dougie Hamilton, it looks like I’m a little ball trying to go through the boards. That’s never a good thing. I’m just glad that everything’s OK with me and I’m back.”
The Bruins had outscored opponents, 47-17, in their 12-game winning streak. Despite going 1 for 3 on the penalty kill, the Bruins have killed 31 of 34 power-play chances . . . The Bruins stayed the night in the Phoenix area and were scheduled to fly back to Boston on Sunday. They host Montreal on Monday at TD Garden.