A somber, contemplative Elvis Merzilikins faced the media after losing 7-2 in his NHL debut.
Merzlikins was his own harshest critic and compared the seven-goal performance to an experience from his younger playing days.
"World championships, 14-0, I lost,” he recalled from a game on the 2012 Latvian World Junior team. “But I was young…It wasn’t NHL. Here it’s serious.”
Merzlikins looked visibly frustrated after most of Pittsburgh’s goals. While he caught pieces of many attempts, several of those shots beat him through the arm or found other openings. Regardless of the five goals conceded in the first 40 minutes of play, Merzlikins said there was no discussion of pulling him for the third period, citing it as his responsibility to finish the start.
“Now, I’m a grown man [compared to the World Junior 14-0 loss]. I understand. I take responsibility,” he said.
Nevertheless, Merzlikins was positive about what's ahead for him.
“But next time, when I come here to this arena, and if I play, I’m gonna win that game for sure,” he said.
But Blue Jackets fans must wonder if confidence is all that’s needed to improve in the future. Through their first two games (0-2-0), the Blue Jackets have allowed 11 goals, and while the team will admit that defensive coverage was the root of most of their issues, that figure does not assuage anyone who predicted goaltending struggles as a cause for regression. Joonas Korpisalo has shown he can play well with an increased workload, while Merzlikins is still an NHL unknown.
However, more reps may provide the growth to solidify Merzlikins as an NHL goaltender, and he has the working attitude for this disposition.
“I messed up, I’m gonna learn, gonna work,” he said.