While the 2019-20 NHL season returning is in doubt due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is a big question mark hanging above the heads of the Columbus Blue Jackets - Who will be the starting goaltender when play finally resumes?
In an effort to break things down into a simpler form, let's take a look at the season each goaltender has had, both the good and the bad.
Korpisalo, despite starting the season with winning five of his first seven starts, was a bit of a rollercoaster ride at the beginning. From breaking his steak to taking then losing five of his next six games, there was plenty of reason to doubt that he had what it takes to be a true number one in the NHL.
Despite the doubt setting in, Korpisalo got back up and fought back to earn an All-Star selection in his first full season as an NHL starter. And with a respectable 19-12-5 record, along with a 2.60 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage, you start to see why many are true believers in his ability as a starter.
For the sake of comparison, we will touch on the same talking points as we did above for Korpisalo. Like the former, Merzlikins did not come out of the gate running, more crawling. It took Merzlikins until his ninth start of the season to win a single game, which led many to believe he was never going to truly adjust to the North American game, and rightly so.
However, the highly-touted Latvian netminder had other things in mind. When Korpisalo went down with a lower-body injury against the Chicago Blackhawks, Merzlikins lit the world on fire with some seriously stellar play. At the start of this period, he was 0-4-3 and would then go 12-5-4 in the absence of Korpisalo, catapulting himself up many of the statistical charts.
Merzlikins went from a goalie many doubted could even make the cut as a backup to 9th in save percentage (.923), 7th in goals-against-average (2.35), and T-2nd in shutouts (5). For a goalie who hasn't carried the full load, this is truly impressive.
Decisions Are Hard
While there will come a time to make the difficult decision to decide between a 25-year-old All-Star goaltender and a 25-year-old statistical star, now is not the time. The prudent decision for the Blue Jackets going into the future would be to offer Merzlikins a similar contract to that of Korpisalo, let them split time, and let their play do the talking.
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