After an Inconsistent Start to the Season, Joonas Korpisalo Is Showing He Can Be a No. 1 Goaltender

By Max Steele on December 21, 2019 at 10:15 am
Dec 16, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
© Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the season, the No. 1 question mark for the Columbus Blue Jackets was their goaltending.

With Sergei Bobrovsky (who played seven seasons in Columbus) gone, the Blue Jackets looked to backup Joonas Korpisalo and touted prospect Elvis Merzlikins to compete for the starting job.

Though both of the young goaltenders had inconsistent starts to the season, Korpisalo, with his play since the first of November, has proven he can be an effective starting goaltender in the NHL.

Korpisalo's goaltending statistics appear average at best, with a .909% save percentage and 2.62 goals against average, but these numbers don't recognize how much he's improved with consistent starts. His body of work is okay, but his recent play has been promising.

Since Nov. 1, Korpisalo has been one of the better goalies in the NHL. In that time period, Korpisalo has posted a .921 save percentage – and while it's only 18th in the league in that span, it's a better percentage than several notable starters such as Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Bobrovsky. 

Korpisalo's really impressive statistic, however, is his goals against average.  Since November 1st, the Finnish goaltender has averaged 2.21 goals against per game.  This number places him at 10th in the NHL in GAA since 11/1.  If only goaltenders with more than 10 starts are considered, he is 6th in the league.

There's no doubt that Korpisalo is the Blue Jackets' top goaltender right now. Blue Jackets fans were witness to this fact this week as he started three games in four nights and has helped the club to a 4-0-2 stretch that's given them a bit of life. This type of goaltending deployment has typically been reserved for a team that has a strong No. 1 guy, and head coach John Tortorella is bestowing that responsibility on Korpisalo right now.

Though goaltending questions still surround the team's future, Korpisalo, at least for now, has established himself as a player capable of being "the guy" in net. But he will have to continue it the rest of the season to establish himself. With many games left and a highly-regarded goaltending prospect as his backup, he'll have to work and prove that he should be the answer in goal for the Blue Jackets going forward.

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