The Blue Jackets' goaltending has been forgettable in 2021-22.
The blame can't solely be placed at the feet of the netminders as the defense has not played well in front of them for much of the year. However, the struggles are evident with the club giving up a franchise record 3.63 goals against per game in 2021-22.
What does the situation in the net look like down the road, and are the Jackets due for an uptick in goalie production next season? Let's look at each of the four goalies that have started at least one game this season, and from there we will try to get a clearer picture of how bright the future goaltending, in Columbus, may be.
- Daniil Tarasov
Age: 23 | GP: 4 | GAA: 2.4 | SV%: .937 | Record: 0-2-0
Tarasov was selected in the third round in 2017 and signed a three-year entry level contract in May of 2019, making him a RFA this summer. He spent the past few seasons with the Cleveland Monsters and played in his first game for the Blue Jackets on Dec. 2, 2021.
He played in four games, including three starts over that next month until he was injured on Jan. 1 against the Carolina Hurricanes. He ended up having hip surgery and being placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
Tarasov is still quite young for a goalie, having recently turned 23. His sample size is very small, but his stats are quite good and give the hope that he will develop into a solid goaltender for the organization moving forward. As previously mentioned he is a pending RFA, but he projects to be re-signed and placed in the role of backup goaltender for the 2022-23 season.
- Elvis Merzlikins
Age: 28 | GP: 57 | GAA: 3.25 | SV%: .906 | Record: 26-22-7
Merzlikins has had a rough year, posting the lowest save percentage and highest goals-against average of his career. Part of it could be the increased workload as he has been the undisputed starter this year, playing in 24 more games than either of his previous two seasons. Another part is certainly the defensive struggles the rest of the team has had.
However, Merzlikins is signed through the 2026-27 season with a cap hit of 5.4 million, so he will be the starter next year and beyond. The Latvian netminder will look to rebound next year and get back to the level of play from his rookie season when he had a .923 save% and GAA of 2.35.
- Joonas Korpisalo
Age: 28 | GP: 22 | GAA: 4.15 | SV%: .877 | Record: 7-11-0
While Merzlikins has struggled this year, Korpisalo has struggled even more. He has posted, by far, the worst numbers of his career as well as having the second worst save% on low danger unblocked shots of any goaltender that has played at least ten games this season. This shows that, while the defense hasn't done him any favors, he has been less than stellar in his own right.
Towards the end of march, Korpisalo had surgery and was placed on injured reserve, pointing to the probability that he had been playing injured for while beforehand. This may explain some of his struggles.
Korpisalo is an UFA at the end of the season and will, in all likelihood, be looking for a job somewhere outside of Columbus.
- Jean-Francois Berube
Age: 30 | GP: 5 | GAA: 3.61 | SV%: .910 | Record: 3-2-0
The 30-year-old journeyman has spent much of his career in the AHL, but was thrust into action in February due to injuries. Needless to say, the expectations were low – but Berube exceeded them with a 3-0-0 record and .925 save% in his first three games for Columbus. Since then, he has come back to earth at 0-2-2 with 4.50 GAA and .839 save%.
Unfortunately, Berube looks like he is what he is: a serviceable option when needed in a pinch, but not much beyond that. He is set to be a free agent and it's unknown whether he will re-sign to play with the Monsters, or move on to another organization.