Joonas Korpisalo is Prepared for Tough Goaltender Decision As Qualifying Round Approaches

By Chris Pennington on July 31, 2020 at 7:00 am
Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo #70 of the Columbus Blue Jackets congratulates fellow netminder Elvis Merzlikins #90 after an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on July 30, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. The Blue Jackets defeated the Bruins 4-1.
Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

A good problem to have, no?

The Columbus Blue Jackets - specifically Head Coach John Tortorella - will have a tough decision come Sunday as the team kicks off its Qualifying Round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Who starts between the pipes?

Blue Jackets' Goaltenders League Rankings
  Wins SV% GAA SO Quality Start %
Joonas Korpisalo 19 (T-21st) .911 (31st) 2.60 (17th) 2 (T-17th) .600 (15th)
Elvis Merzlikins 13 (43rd) .923 (T-8th) 2.35 (6th) 5 (T-2nd) .548 (28th)

That's the problem. But, it's a "good" problem because both options in Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins are better than a lot of team's only option. 

You could make the case that there's no wrong choice here, but you may not say that if Columbus loses the series. Tortorella can't just pick a name out of a hat - he has to look at the body of work from the regular season, training camp performances, and even the snapshot of play from Thursday night's exhibition game win against the Boston Bruins. 

Korpisalo, the longtime backup and understudy of Sergei Bobrovsky, is ready for either scenario, though. 

"It's a five-game series. You never know what's going to happen. You just have to be ready, no matter who's gonna play," Korpisalo said following the 4-1 win against the Bruins, where Korpisalo stopped all eleven shots faced. "It's great we have two great goalies, and both are ready. You just have to be ready for it."

Korpisalo looked sharp in his period-and-a-half outing against Boston before being swapped out for Merzlikins (not due to performance, but for the coaches to get a look at both goaltenders). Especially after a somewhat shaky vibe in inter-squad scrimmages during training camp, this was a good look for Korpisalo.

"This is one game - one game only. I tried to do my best, I feel really good," Korpisalo continued. "It's not up to me. I'm not making decisions - I hope for the best."

According to Tortorella, we likely won't know the starter until Sunday's pregame interviews, which will build further anticipation amongst the two budding goaltenders and an itching fan base. If that's our biggest complaint in the Blue Jackets hockey world right now, though - we're livin' pretty solid.

“It doesn't surprise me what they did tonight,” Tortorella said after the exhibition game against the Bruins. “I thought they both played very well. Where it sits when we play on (Sunday), I still don't know.”

Who would you have between the pipes come Game 1 on Sunday?

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