Is Joonas Korpisalo Going to be Successful as the Blue Jackets Backup Goaltender?

By Sam Blazer on July 20, 2017 at 8:36 am
Joonas Korpisalo gets ready for the game to start during the national anthem
Aaron Doster-USA Today Sports

Goaltending is the most important position on the ice. Getting a player that can save your butt when the offense or defense doesn't show up is a big deal.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have had one of the very best in the business with Sergei Bobrovsky. In years past, they have employed Curtis McElhinney as the primary backup and for as great as a person as he was, he wasn't a good backup. 

As they waived McElhinney last season, this gave the reigns to Joonas Korpisalo. A Finnish born goaltender that had done a masterful job when on the ice in 2015-16. 

When given the primary backup job in 2016-17, he fell apart. Seeing his save percentage drop from .920 in 15-16 to .905 last season. 

There are a couple of ways to look at this, one being psychological and the other being more symptom based. 

In 2015-16, Korpisalo saw the net on a consistent basis, night after night. Playing behind a healthy Bobrovsky this past season, he didn't see the ice as much and "rust" played a big factor. He very rarely saw back to back starts which happened multiple times two seasons ago.

Korpisalo also doesn't have a terribly big sample size to draw upon. He only played in 14 games last season and that is significantly lower than other backups in the league. His 31 games he saw in 2015-16 is too much but should be in the similar ball park this next season. It isn't possible to pin down what Korpisalo is going to be with the information we have available.

However, looking at his save percentage during different situations gives an indication where he needs to improve. At even strength over two seasons, Korpisalo is above average with a .924 save percentage. Where he truly begins to fall apart is on the power play and shorthanded. Both are well below .900 and expose a real weakness in his game. 

It doesn't help that Korpisalo had a lackluster performance at the World Championships too. He was below .900 again and it may now be more of a confidence issue that skill issue. Anywhere Korpisalo has played even at a younger age, he has posted respectable numbers. One bad season with a small number of games played shouldn't sour anyone on the player.

As important as this upcoming season is for the Blue Jackets, the backup goaltending position needs to be solidified. Korpisalo is the answer given his pedigree and abilities. The Blue Jackets are hoping the process bears out within the results.