The Blue Jackets have quite the tandem in net.
With Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, they have two talented goaltenders who challenge each other to be better every single day. No matter which one of them is in net, the Blue Jackets should like their chances to get solid goaltending day in and day out.
Both Merzlikins and Korpisalo are signed through the 2021-22 season. Matiss Kivlenieks, Veini Vehvilainen, and Daniil Tarasov are waiting in the wings. It's quite the pipeline.
But make no mistake. The Blue Jackets' playoff run, while it was shorter than ideal, was Korpisalo's breakthrough, and he'll likely be the number-one goaltender for John Tortorella as next season begins. That's not to say that Merzlikins had a bad postseason, though. He finished with a .946 save percentage and 1.96 GAA — fantastic numbers, but he had the misfortune of getting injured.
In nine postseason games (eight in which he was the starter), Korpisalo had a save percentage of .941 and a 1.90 GAA with two shutouts. For comparison, during his regular season in which he was named an All-Star, he had a GAA of 2.60 and a save percentage of .911.
He shut out the Maple Leafs in Game 1, then saved 36 of 38 shots in a Game 2 loss. In Game 3, he struggled, allowing three goals on 15 shots. Merzlikins came in and dominated as the Blue Jackets notched a memorable comeback win.
Korpi-solid— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) August 21, 2020
No matter how you refer to Joonas Korpisalo, we can all appreciate this compilation of his best stops from the 2020 postseason pic.twitter.com/0XBbMoAbAr
After Merzlikins' performance in Game 3, he earned the starting job for Game 4. The Blue Jackets suffered a brutal third-period meltdown, and Merzlikins was injured near the end of the contest.
Enter Korpisalo. He stonewalled the Maple Leafs in Game 5, stopping all 33 shots he faced as the Blue Jackets were victorious, 3-0. With Merzlikins injured, Kivlenieks was now Korpisalo's backup.
Then, Game 1 against the Lightning occurred. Boy, did Korpisalo ever deserve a better fate. In a five-overtime titanic struggle, Korpisalo made EIGHTY-FIVE saves, but it was ultimately in a losing effort.
As the series with the Lightning continued, it was clear that Korpisalo was fatigued (who wouldn't be). Kivlenieks had played in six NHL games during the regular season, but he likely wasn't ready to be thrown to the wolves. As the Blue Jackets bowed out in five games, Korpisalo still finished the series with a .932 save percentage — quite respectable given the Lightning's explosive offense.
With Korpisalo, Merzlikins, Kivlenieks and co., the Blue Jackets are set for a while in the goaltending department. In an area that many suspected would be the Blue Jackets' greatest weakness this past season, they've become a strength.