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2023-24 Player Recap: Elvis Merzlikins was better, but still not good enough

Jan 23, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

I could write a book about Elvis Merzlikins’s season. He had games, especially early on in the season, where he single-handedly kept his team in the game. He also had many bad games in which he looked uncomfortable and out of sorts. From public rifts with the front office to rumors about trades, his season had it all.

In the 2023-24 season, 79 goalies played 300 minutes or more. Of those 79 goalies, Elvis ranked 9th worst in expected goals against per 60 at 3.4. What does that mean? His teammates played terrible hockey in front of him. Compare him to former Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin, who ranked 22nd on the same list, at 2.79 expected goals against per 60. That’s a 0.61 difference per game. That’s a significant difference in the number and quality of shots against each goalie is seeing.

Let’s take a look at another comparison:

Elvis Merzlikins 41GP | .897 SV % | 3.45 GAA | 3.4 xGA/60 | -1.98 GSAx
Pyotr Kochetkov 42 GP | .911 SV % | 2.33 GAA | 2.38 xGA/60 | -2.13 GSAx
GSAx = goals saved above expected
Stats from Natural Stat Trick

Carolina plays arguably the best defense in the league. As a result, Kochetkov saw fewer quality shots against. The result is obvious. Both goalies above performed roughly the same across the entire season, but one looks significantly worse than the other.

Through it all, even with a .897 save percentage, Merzlikins still managed to give up only 2 more goals than expected over the entire season. You can rightfully say that he should have been better, especially in the consistency department. But I would argue that looking like a legitimate starter in front of the 2023-24 Blue Jackets would have been impossible for all but maybe 5 or 6 current NHL goalies.

2023-24 Stats

Games: 41
Wins: 13
Save %: .897
GAA: 3.45
SO: 1
xGA: 128.03
GA: 130


Elvis is signed for three more seasons and has a $5.4 million cap hit. He also has a 10-team no-trade list.

High Point

On February 25th, against the New York Rangers, Elvis stopped 38 of 40 shots. Of those 40 shots, 10 were high danger, and he stopped them all. In the end, only 2 goals were given up against 4.53 expected. That’s called standing on your head.

Low Point

Merzlikins gave up 6 goals on 27 shots against the Jets on March 17th, against only 2.52 expected.

Many of his low points have been well-documented and discussed. Perhaps the lowest of the low was the trade request, and the ensuing media storm, that may or may not have ever existed.

Report Card


Elvis deserves credit for performing better than last season. He also deserves a lower grade for inconsistency and too many bad games. Admittedly, I’m also grading on a curve here based on how bad the defense was in front of him. No goalie, no matter the circumstance, should have to deal with what he dealt with for the majority of the season.

Finally, bonus points against for his problems with letting his emotions affect his play.