3. Can Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo be elite again?
There were real alarm bells rung in Columbus when the Blue Jackets lost elite goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in Free Agency in 2019, with many feeling that the wheels would come flying off with no high-end starter between the pipes.
However, those people didn’t count on the emergence of not one, but two stud netminders who look to be the future for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Yes, we are talking about Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.
Both established themselves as huge cogs in this well-oiled Blue Jackets machine, with the emergence of the duo testament to the work done by GM Jarmo Kekalainen and his team.
Merzlikins in particular took the NHL by storm in 2019-20 with a 13-9-8 record to go along with a .923 Save Percentage and a 2.35 Goals Against Average with five shutouts in what was his rookie year.
Korpisalo, who had limited exposure to the NHL prior to last year, was equally impressive with two shutouts, a 2.60 GAA and a .911 SV% in 35 starts, while he put up a .941 Save Percentage and a stellar 1.90 Goals Against Average in nine Stanley Cup Playoffs games.
And, who can forget that incredible, unforgettable and clutch 85-save performance in that Game 1 five-Overtime thriller against the Tampa Bay Lightning?
Due to Korpisalo’s heroics in the postseason, it wouldn’t be surprising if he starts the 2020-21 season as the No. 1 starter for the Blue Jackets but, in what will be a sprint to the finish line in a condensed 56-game schedule, Columbus will need both of their new stars in net to play up to and beyond the level they reached in 2019-20.
If Elvis Merzlikins, who is signed through the 2021-22 season, and Joonas Korpisalo, who is also signed through 2021-22, can both continue to play at an elite level in goal, then the Columbus Blue Jackets will have an excellent chance at being one of the top teams in the Central Division in 2020-21.