At the beginning of the 2019-20 season, Joonas Korpisalo had some big Russian shoes to fill. Fairly untested after the departure of Sergei Bobrovsky, but a little more tested than Elvis Merzlikins and Matiss Kivlenieks behind him, Korpi started out the season in net for the Blue Jackets. No surprise there.
He did just fine - nothing to sneeze at, nothing to write home about. The Jackets as a whole really took a minute to hit their stride this past season, and Korpi fell right into that narrative. He was the middle-of-the-road goalie for a middle-of-the-road team, and in my opinion, the most beautiful thing happened to him and his career in the past year: he started playing in tandem with Elvis Merzlikens.
Seeds covered Elvis extensively in his player review on Tuesday, so I’d invite you to read that here if you missed it, but you probably remember that Elvis really rose to relevance in January, rocketing himself to the top of goalie chatter not only in the Metro conference but across the league.
Korpi could have probably let this get to him - and maybe it did, for a little bit, but it was never overtly apparent - all goalies slump, and when Elvis hit his comedown in February of this year, Joonas was right there to step up and take his place. I would love to know more about their personal dynamic, but I’d love to think they’re great friends instead of gritty competitors - here’s what makes me think they have an amazing friendship:
Hey Brother, I though u might need some... 88 shots and 85 saves?!really korpi? what’s your room number I’m coming pic.twitter.com/BRHjZXD3JD— Elvis Merzlikins (@Merzly30) August 12, 2020
So now, to bolster the Jackets formidable defense, we have two goalies who can work seamlessly to cover each other and are both starter material. Nice! Twitter was, well, atwitter yesterday when some Vancouver radio station tweeted that Korpi was “on the block,” but that would shock me as a move the CBJ are seriously considering right now. Here’s the tweet, which was since deleted:
Was deleted. But here it was. pic.twitter.com/WrigFcqx1Y— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) August 26, 2020
The Jackets have two goalies on their hands who aren’t necessarily spring chickens anymore, as they each went through the fire and flames with the team this season, but they have nowhere to go but up as they continue to grow their skills in a fabulous goaltending environment in Columbus.
Joonas Korpisalo 2019-20 Stats:
Games played/started: 37/35
Save percentage: .911
Goals against average: 2.60
Goals saved above average: 1.14
Games played/started: 9/9
Save percentage: .941
Goals against average: 1.90
Goals saved above average: 7.56
We all witnessed Korpi’s high point in Game 1 against Tampa in the playoffs, a literal record-shattering playoff performance in the longest game of hockey I hope to ever watch in my life.
He recorded 85 saves compared to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 61 - a combined total of 151 saves in a game, which is a record since the NHL started recording the statistic in 1955-56. He broke the previous record of 73, which was recorded by Kelly Hrudey for the Capitals in 1987.
Korpisalo was on track to make waves in these playoffs, after perfectly bookending the Maple Leafs series with two shutouts, becoming the eighth NHL goalie to perform such a feat.
Joonas Korpisalo became the eighth different goaltender in NHL history to record multiple shutouts in a best-of-five series. #StanleyCup #NHLStats: https://t.co/q6fgP2wLB5 pic.twitter.com/V31OliKuNd— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) August 10, 2020
We saw amazing things out of Korpi this season, which further strengthens my feeling that the CBJ isn’t looking to let go of him anytime soon.
After some memory-refreshing discourse with my Cannon colleagues, I decided to note Joonas Korpisalo’s season low point as his super bummer injury in a super bummer game against the Chicago Blackhawks in the regular season this year.
Korpi ended up missing weeks due to a knee injury that should have never happened. If the time in the game had been properly restored to the clock in the third period, it would have allowed Zach Werenski’s game-winning goal to count and not necessitated a shootout, during which the knee injury was suffered.
Despite the obvious bummer of Korpisalo’s injury during an already injury-fraught season, the implications could have been much worse had Elvis Merzlikins not been waiting in the wings, ready to shine.
How would you grade Joonas Korpisalo this season?
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