Joonas Korpisalo Is Proving That He Deserves More Opportunities for the Columbus Blue Jackets

By Dan Dukart on January 19, 2018 at 10:15 am
Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo

Russell LaBounty – USA TODAY Sports

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Coming out of the bye-week, a surprise story for the Blue Jackets involved playing backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo over the rested, reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky.

In their 2-1 shootout win over the Dallas Stars, Korpisalo made 35 saves and stopped Jason Spezza, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin in the skills competition. The young Finn improved to 5-4-0 on the season.

Korpisalo looked the part and was steady throughout the game. He had a shutout bid going deep into regulation, but a late redirected goal ended that. Still, he righted the ship and was composed in stopping a trio of immensely talented shootout players. He also made an absurd save to preserve a 1-0 lead against the Stars most gifted goal scorer, Seguin.

The video below of Sergei Bobrovsky laughing about the ridiculousness of the save is gold.

John Tortorella said the team decided days ago that Korpisalo would be the starter for this first game, which is interesting for a number of reasons.

First, Bobrovsky hasn't been consistent coming off of lulls in the schedule, injuries, etc. There isn't much of a book on Korpisalo, but it's telling that while (many of) his teammates spent the bye week in Miami or somewhere tropical, Korpisalo spent it with the Cleveland Monsters, allowing just one goal (in the final 30 seconds) on 36 shots to preserve a 2-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Blue Jackets won't play again until Tuesday night in Las Vegas, so if there were internal questions about Bobrovsky's play coming out of long pauses in the schedule, this certainly will be brought up again, but it's hard to imagine Bobrovsky won't get a start for two weeks.

Tortorella admitted that the initial plan was for Korpisalo to play one of the two games (Buffalo/Vancouver) on a back-to-back heading into the bye-week, but because of a loss at Buffalo, those plans changed.

That meant that Korpisalo had started just twice since Dec. 2. One of those starts saw a sterling Korpisalo stop 39 of 41 shots in a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs. The other was the disastrous New Year's Eve game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in which most of the team looked disinterested in playing a hockey game.

(Note: he also came on in relief for Bobrovsky in a 7-2 loss to Edmonton).

Frankly, that's not enough hockey for Korpisalo. He's earned the opportunity to play more. His .912 save percentage ranks 36th among all NHL goalies with at least five games played this season, putting him ahead of, among others, Carey Price and Matt Murray. Clearly, he's an NHL caliber goalie.

Backup goalies have the unenviable position of playing irregularly but are asked to come up with NHL-quality performances when they do have the chance to play. The Blue Jackets have played 47 games this season, but Korpisalo has started just nine of them.

The Blue Jackets are at a place in their life cycle where they need to make the playoffs, but also need to win a round or two. Bobrovsky is unquestionably the goalie that will take them there, but if the goal is to preserve their No. 1 guy, Korpisalo should be getting more starts.

He's earned at least that much.

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