It is a question that no one really needs to ask of the Columbus Blue Jackets right now. The team has two solid goaltenders as the team is about to enter the month of November in the offseason. They are in an enviable position that a lot of teams around the NHL wish they could have.
They have Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, two young-ish players under team control. We saw Merzlikins shine during the regular season last year where he took the Blue Jackets on a win streak that helped the team stay in the hunt. Korpisalo on the other hand was the beast in the playoffs that the Blue Jackets nearly rode into the ground.
Looking objectively at their numbers, it tells a story that I wasn't expecting.
The numbers show that Merzlikins in the regular season was fantastic, almost Vezina level if he could've kept it up for any longer. Considering that he was a rookie in the league at 25-years old, you would expect a seasoned player but the Blue Jackets had to be happy with what they got from him. He ended up fifth in the league in save percentage and 2nd in the league in shutouts. All of this while making the first team All-Rookie team.
You'd think this is where the separation comes between Korpisalo and Merzlikins but the tale of two seasons is where Korpisalo begins to catch up.
Korpisalo in the postseason against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, was otherworldly. Almost more than otherworldly. There aren't words to describe what he did. In the playoffs, he put up a .941 save percentage that is insane no matter how you try to slice it. While that nine-game run could be chalked up to sample size, it is also a showcase of the limitless potential that has been shown by him.
In his rookie season (which may be his best season) he put up stellar numbers over a longer period of time and ever since has tantalized all that have watched him. Korpisalo put up league average numbers during the regular season last year which puts him hovering around replacement level.
If you want to go off recency bias, you may go with Korpisalo who dazzled in the playoffs. If you want to go off who got you to the promised land, Merzlikins may be the bell cow for the team. Either way, each goaltender has a reason why they think they should be the starter and you couldn't fault either one for thinking they should take the net.
For a team that may have a tough time scoring goals, at least they can have confidence that their backstop will keep them in most games.
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