Blue Jackets Review: Goaltending Depth


Blue Jackets Review: Goaltending Depth

This morning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky took part in the Blue Jackets team skate.  There is not a current time table for Bob’s return, but the goaltending situation in Columbus will certainly look different than earlier this season.  Thanks to the play of 21 year old Joonas Korpisalo, Bobrovsky will likely have to work hard to earn the crease back.  During the former Vezina Trophy winner’s stint on IR, Korpisalo has decided to fight for wins this season; and lately the fight has been successful with the team earning five points of a possible six points in the past three games.  The questions becomes, who will win the crease to start next season?

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How has Bob performed recently?

In Bobrovsky’s first season as a Blue Jacket (lockout shortened 2012-13), the young Russian put forth a phenomenal effort and was rewarded with the Vezina trophy.  As for the numbers that season, Bobrovsky put up an impressive 2.0 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.  In the following season, Bobrovsky put up slightly lower numbers, but was rewarded with a playoff appearance.  As for last season, Bobrovsky’s numbers came back to earth and injury became a topic of discussion.  The team entered the season with playoff hopes, but by the end of October the team was off to a terrible 0-5 start with Bobrovsky shouldering some of the blame and admitting a loss in confidence.  Bob’s on ice play was not pretty and his 5.0 goals against average and .830 save percentage during the five game span were embarrassing.  Fortunately, the 27 year old rebounded strongly in November and early December before suffering from a recurring groin injury.  It is clear that Bob is talented, but injury and consistency are quickly becoming real concerns and may define his career.

Blue Jackets Review: Goaltending Depth
Feb 16, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) looks on during a stop in play against the Boston Bruins in the third period at Nationwide Arena. The Bruins won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

How has Korpisalo performed?

Korpisalo is a tall and athletic goalie. Covers the net well and able to move smoothly laterally. Has played well and improved steadily in Finnish leagues, but his consistency on higher levels is yet to be tested. –

This season has been the first NHL exposure for the 21 year old Finnish goaltender.  Elite Prospects outlined Korpisalo’s game well, which can be found in the quote to the right:

Through 18 games this season, Korpisalo has been tested and has performed remarkably.  On Friday Korpisalo is expected to make his 11th consecutive start.  In the goalie’s past 8 starts, he has battled for an 6-1-1 record for the Blue Jackets with a 2.18 GAA and a .935 save percentage.  The team is starting to play sound defensive hockey in front of the young Finn, but scoring remains a team struggle.  If the team maintains their defensive focus and can find their scoring touch, the Blue Jackets have the ability to be a surprise playoff contender next season.

Next: Blue Jackets Rumors: Fedor Tyutin's Future in Columbus

Can Korpisalo and Bobrovsky coexist in Columbus?

Having the healthy tandem on your roster looks like a real possibility for next season.  Korpisalo is 21 and entering crucial years in his development.  Backing up Bobrovsky would not be the best approach to Korpisalo’s development.  A 1A and 1B approach to the duo has been suggested which could work for a season or two, but is not ideal for development or for promoting consistency amongst the goaltenders and team.   If a split approach arises, the contract discrepancy between the goalies becomes a glaring concern.  Bobrovsky has a cap hit of $7.425 million over the next three seasons, while Korpisalo is still on his entry level deal until the end of next season when he becomes an RFA.  If Korpisalo continues his strong play next season, the goaltender will be negotiating a significant increase and the team will have a large chunk of their salary cap devoted to the crease.

This would also force a trade or demotion for the veteran back up, Curtis McElinney.   The team  has the young Anton Forsberg playing a strong game at the AHL level and the Swedish prospect Oscar Dansk who will likely make a move to the AHL next season to continue his development after experiencing a rough start to his North American career.  Ultimately, one of the five goaltenders listed above will need to be moved from Ohio this offseason.  Forsberg is an RFA after this season, so does the team decide to move on from the young Swede?  Does the team decide to move Curtis McElinney at the deadline this season?  Or does the team look to trade one of Korpisalo and Bobrovsky next season?  The team will likely be monitoring the play of Bobrovsky when he returns to understand the future of their crease and determine if Korpisalo has the ability to dethrone the former Vezina winner.  The play of the rookie goaltender has blurred the future in Columbus and it can no longer be assumed that the crease in Columbus belongs to Bobrovsky.