Joonas Korpisalo entered the 2021 season with a new contract in hand, eager to build on his stand-out performance in the 2020 playoff bubble. That playoff run featured two shutouts of the potent Toronto offense and a record-setting 85 saves in a marathon five overtime game against Tampa.
Sadly, that kind of dominance was few and far between for Korpisalo and the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. In fact, it ended up being the worst statistical season of his six year career, with his lowest save percentage and second lowest goals against average.
The season started well enough, when Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins were alternating starts. Korpi actually was the stronger goalie through January. In that month, he went 2-1-2 with a .936 save percentage and 2.17 GAA. He followed that up with five of his next seven starts having a save percentage below .900. This coincided with an injury to Merzlikins, leaving Korpi as the workhorse starter. As we saw in the bubble, Korpi does well with regular work but there are diminishing returns when he doesn’t get some games off.
Thirteen of his 31 starts were considered “quality starts,” a metric which recognizes starts with an above average save percentage. Last year, he had 21 such starts in 35 attempts. By comparison, Elvis had one more quality start this season in eight fewer starts. On the other side of the ledger, there are “really bad starts” which are those with a save percentage below .850. Korpi had eight of those.
Korpi had no shutouts, but four starts where he allowed just one goal. Then he had six starts where he allowed five or more goals. It was that kind of season. He ended it on the IR with a lower body injury.
Games Played: 33
Games Started: 31
Goals Saved Above Average: -12.7
Goals Saved Above Expectation: -22.58
Korpisalo has one year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $2,800,000. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. It is probable that one of the goalies will be traded this summer. Will his play have cost himself the starting job here, or has it made his trade value prohibitively low?
In January, Korpi won a goalie duel against a red-hot Kevin Lankinen in Chicago, making 31 saves in a 2-1 Columbus victory.
The wheels came off the bus in late March, with just two of his final nine starts featuring a save percentage over .900. Two starts fell below .800, including a start in Tampa where he allowed three goals on six shots in the first 5:41 of the game before being pulled. He didn’t take the loss, however, as the Jackets ended up losing 6-4.
How would you grade Joonas Korpisalo’s 2021 season?
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