If you lost your faith in Elvis Merzlikins after his first nine NHL games, you're not alone.
Over that stretch, Merzlikins turned in some good performances, some bad performances, and a couple of performances where those watching may have felt compelled to hit the power button on their remote.
In those nine games that Merzlikins played in, the Blue Jackets didn't emerge victorious a single time. So, when starting goaltender Joonas Korpisalo tore his meniscus in a shootout against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 29th, it wasn't looking good for the Blue Jackets.
Korpisalo had been playing some of the best hockey of his career, especially in the month of December before he was injured. He posted a 6-2-3 record, allowing just 1.92 goals per game with a .932 save percentage.
With big shoes to fill, Merzlikins stepped in. And folks, was he ever ready to fill them.
You couldn't have scripted it any better. Merzlikins' first home start was on New Year's Eve, facing off against Sergei Bobrovsky in Bobrovsky's return to Columbus.
Of course, in his tallest test all year, Merzlikins aced it. He thoroughly out-dueled Bobrovsky as the Blue Jackets secured a 4-1 win. Merzlikins stopped 36 of 37 shots and was in total control throughout the contest.
After Korpisalo's injury, Merzlikins informed the media that he would not be available for questions, starting with the game against Florida. He wanted to eliminate outside noise and focus on himself, which seems to be working so far. After each game, the club has released a statement from Merzlikins. Here's what he had to say after the Florida game:
Despite Merzlikins' outstanding performance against the Panthers, many were skeptical that he could repeat it. So, naturally, because this Blue Jackets season has made the unthinkable happen, Merzlikins turned in a second stalwart performance against the Boston Bruins, one of the best teams in the NHL.
The Bruins lead the Atlantic Division with 59 points, tied for most points in the NHL with the Washington Capitals. They have one of the best lines (if not the best line) in the NHL, comprised of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak (who is leading the NHL with 30 goals). Merzlikins held them to one goal on 26 shots as the Blue Jackets came back from a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 in overtime. He made two huge saves early in the third period to keep the Blue Jackets in the game.
After the game, the Blue Jackets released the following statement from Merzlikins:
With two huge wins under his belt, Merzlikins is looking more and more confident each game, and the results are showing. While Korpisalo's injury isn't ideal, the Blue Jackets are still in good hands, thanks to Merzlikins' improved play.
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