The Columbus Blue Jackets starting AHL goalie was roughed up last year on a terrible Cleveland team.
Not exactly the start to your Columbus Blue Jackets career you want if you’re Matiss Kivlenieks. Coming of a record setting year in the USHL as a goalie, being named the top player in the USHL and dominating the playoffs, Matiss was signed and hopes were high for the Latvian.
But life in the pros is tough. And Matiss learned that no matter how well you play, you’re still just one guy that still has to rely on his teammates. Last year, the Cleveland Monsters were terrible to say the least and Matiss faced a ton of high chance opportunities and didn’t have a lot of scoring support.
In 43 games, Matiss had a .891 save percentage and a goals against average of 3.21. Woof.
More from Union and Blue
- Blaming Columbus Blue Jacket Players for Babcock Fallout is Unfair
- The Mike Babcock Experiment in Columbus Has Failed
- Blue Jacket Prospects Win Traverse City Tournament: Who Stood Out?
- Mike Babcock Resigns as CBJ Head Coach: Reaction
- New Claims Bring Higher Level of Concern to Babcock Situation
Again, not all of this was on Matiss. The Monsters were miserable. But it wasn’t the start that Matiss wanted and expectations for this year should be higher for him. If he doesn’t play better, newly signed Jean-Francois Berube will quickly take his place. Berube is looking to play his way back into the NHL and has a lot to prove in the final year of his contract.
Matiss has the raw ability to play at a high level. He is still only 22-years-old and goalies take much longer to fully mature. The Latvian is entering the second year of his contract though and progress should be expected. Playing in 43 games of a 76 game season is a solid start. I would expect that number to get to 50 this season.
Kivlenieks will progress along with the Monsters this season. The team will be significantly better and should help reduce the amount of high danger shots Matiss faces this season.
Expect his save percentage to break the .907 mark and his goals against average to dip below three.