Elvis Merzlikins Still Has Opportunity to Earn No. 1 Goaltending Spot

By Chris Pennington on November 12, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Elvis Merzlikins
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It's not so sunny in Columbus right now.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have dropped six of their last seven games, and their current starting goaltender has been benched (rumored to be in regards to his in-game freakout against the Colorado Avalanche).

Nothing like the tune of Elvis (Merzlikins) to bring up the sad vibes, right?

John Tortorella has made numerous comments about the starting goaltender job for the Blue Jackets being in the hands of Joonas Korpisalo, but those words are looking more bleak day-by-day.

Through his first eight games of the season, Korpisalo was rocking a 5-2-1 record, 2.75 GAA and .901 save percentage. Merzlikins, on the other hand, let in seven goals in his first outing and looked, like many rookies would in their debut, a bit shaky.

The past few weeks, though, the roles have flipped to an extent. Korpisalo has gone 1-5-0 in his last six games with a .888 save percentage and allowing 3.33 goals per game. 

Merzlikins, despite not recording his first NHL win yet, drastically improved his opening game numbers, riding numbers of 2.33 GAA, .911 SV% and two overtime losses in three contests.

Korpisalo's declining play was cause to give Merzlikins a try again, and the outburst against the Avalanche was the final straw, it seemed. Bring in the Latvian, folks. 

Both goaltenders are fighting for a job right now, and though it may not seem like it, the pressure is more so on Korpisalo to perform, not Merzlikins. Korpisalo's job (made clear from his benching) is not guaranteed, and if he loses his starting spot, he could start to gain the reputation as a permanent backup goaltender for the club (or teams around the league in the future). 

Merzlikins gets the situational pass of being a rookie, and one that is adjusting to North-American ice and play, to boot. If Korpisalo let in seven in his opening game, he might have been in the AHL before the final buzzer sounded.

When Merzlikins did it, though, we all patted him on the back and said he just needs time (he's just so likable!). 

Tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, Merzlikins could stack his claim to be a valuable rotation goalie, if not the starter just yet. Tortorella seems to have a tight leash with both goaltenders, so the competition is bound to heat up. Get your popcorn ready. 

Follow 1st Ohio BatteryFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube