Starting Goaltender for the Blue Jackets is Joonas Korpisalo's Job to Lose

By Ben Jandrain on July 16, 2019 at 1:20 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo attempts to stop the puck from entering the net against the Montreal Canadiens during a regular-season matchup at Nationwide Arena in January of 2019.
Russell LaBounty- USA TODAY Sports

Hockey in Columbus, Ohio without Sergei Bobrovsky is the new reality.

Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins are the top candidates to become the next franchise goalie for the Blue Jackets, but it's Korpisalo's job to lose. 

Here's why:

Korpisalo showed high-end potential early in his career with an ample opportunity

During the 2015-16 for the CBJ, Sergei Bobrovsky was sidelined due to a groin injury. What we saw next was Korpisalo making a name for himself as a young athletic goaltender.

2015-16 31 30 920 2.60 16 533 1

When looking at the statistics from Korpisalo's first year as a goalie in the National Hockey League, you won't see anything too flashy. However, Korpisalo only had one really bad start (RBS). A RBS qualifies for a game when a goalie has a SV% below 85%. Korpisalo's consistency gave the Blue Jackets a chance to compete on a nightly basis. 

"Korpisalo, when he played the stretches where he got consistent sort of No. 1 role when Bobrovsky was hurt, was .920 save percentage through that stretch," General manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He’s a very talented young goalie – now, he’s gonna get an opportunity to prove that he can play No. 1."

Despite the impressive numbers as a whole that season for Korpisalo, he actually had a rough start. Korpisalo was only 1-4-1 with a .882 SV% in his first six appearances during the aforementioned campaign. After getting into a rhythm, Korpisalo had a record of 15-7-3 and a SV% of .927 in his last 25 games.  

After Bobrovsky left the bench early, Korpisalo rose to the occasion

Columbus' first game of the second half of the 2018-19 season was at Amalie Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bobrovsky was pulled from the net (not due poor performance) after his team went down 4-0 at the 8:53 mark of the third period. Instead of watching from the bench, Bobrovsky instead decided to head to the dressing room early and hit the showers.

Let's not forget, Columbus only made it into the playoffs by one point, leaving a small margin for error.

Korpisalo started in net the two games following the debacle in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

The first of the two games was at home against the Nashville Predators and the second was on the road against the Washington Capitals, who at the time were the defending Stanley Cup Champions. 

The CBJ collected all four points in the pivotal bak-to-back starts from Korpisalo, who saved a combined 64 of 68 shots in the two contests, good for a SV% of .941.   

The two games mentioned above are a microcosm of what Korpisalo can do when stakes are high. 

Money talks

Joonas Korpisalo is making $1.15 million this season, compared to $874,125 for Elvis Merzlikins. That's essentially a difference of $275,000.  

It's safe to assume each player will get a fair opportunity to become the No. 1 goalie for the CBJ, but Korpisalo does make more money–yet another reason to give him the nod as the starter when the season begins.  


Korpisalo has played in 90 career NHL games, while Merzlikins has yet to face a shot on net in the NHL.  


Elvis Merzlikins will have his chance to become the starter in net for the Jackets, but it only makes sense for Joonas Korpisalo to be the go-to guy when the puck drops against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 4 at Nationwide Arena.  

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