Let’s get this out of the way first: one of Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes will win the Calder Trophy this season. Both had outstanding years, and either one would be a worthy winner of the award. I have Makar slightly ahead of Hughes, but I would be fine if Hughes won it.
That being said - Elvis Merzlikins deserves to be the third finalist for the award.
Merzlikins had a rough start to the season, getting shelled by the Pittsburgh Penguins in his first outing, and then struggling to find consistent ice time behind Joonas Korpisalo. However, once Korpisalo was injured, Merzlikins took over the net and kept the Blue Jackets in the thick of the playoff race with his outstanding play.
Merzlikins’ hot streak began on New Year’s Eve, The Blue Jackets and Merzlikins had been shelled in Florida earlier in December as the goalie gave up 3 goals and posted a dismal .885 SV%. On this night, however, there was no denying the Latvian. Merzlikins posted 36 saves on 37 shots, a .973 SV% and led the Jackets to a win.
That win set the tone for Merzlikins’ month of January. In January, Merzlikins posted eight wins and two losses in 10 games, allowing just 17 goals on 330 shots for a .948 SV% and a 1.72 goals against average. Merzllikins was named the NHL’s second star of the week for the week ending on January 19 after posting three wins, including shutout victories over the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils.
Merzlikins was also named the NHL’s first star of the week for the week ending on February 9, 2020. Merzlikins posted a 2-1-0 record with a 0.67 GAA and a .971 SV%. After taking over for Korpisalo, Merzlikins went on a 12-3-0 streak with a 1.55 GAA and a .951 SV% along with five shutouts.
Merzlikins was injured against the Ottawa Senators before the pause, but he was able to return for one more game before the season paused. In that outing, Merzlinkins made 26 saves on 27 shots for a .963 SV% as he beat the Vancouver Canucks.
Merzlinkins finished the season 5th in save percentage among goaltenders (.923 SV%), 5th in goals against (2.35 GAA), 2nd in shutouts (5), and 9th in goals saved above average (12 GSAA). Those numbers would be impressive for a veteran goaltender, much less a rookie making the transition to North American ice for the first season.
I mean, watch that. Elvis should be a Calder finalist.