Have the Blue Jackets Found their Goaltender, or is it a Mirage?

The Blue Jackets lost in Montreal on Tuesday night, after giving up 3 goals on 4 shots in the first 5:48 of the game. My big takeaway: one CBJ goaltender looked really shaky. The other looked really good.

Mar 12, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins (90) skates back
Mar 12, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins (90) skates back / David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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After Merzlikins was pulled and the game was 3-0, the team picked up their play and really took the game over. They just couldn't solve Cayden Primeau, who was outstanding.

The question I have is this: were they shaky because they weren't playing in front of a confident goaltender? Were they better after the swap because the coach woke them up - or because they had the right guy in net?

In short: is it just a case of having the right style of goaltender back there? He's definitely calmer and more composed than the fiery Merzlikins. And, Tarasov has been playing really confident hockey lately.

Even if we factor one more game into Tarasov's recent hot stretch, going all the way back to January 30th (the same stretch we noted Merzlikins), he's sitting with a sparkling .928% save percentage. That's six weeks of results produced as if he's a high-end #1 goaltender in this league.

With all of that aside, I do think that both guys have benefitted from the team playing better defense, for the most part. That wasn't the case at the start of last night's game. So again, it's hard to look at this through the fine comb and blame Elvis.

But, one guy is clearly outplaying the other. And, the team is clearly playing better, more confident hockey in front of Tarasov right now.

For that reason alone, I think the smart play here is to ride the hot hand. I'd like to see the team keep feeding starts to Tarasov as much as possible. Let's see what we have here, at the end of another lost season.

The least we can do when half the roster is injured, is figure out if we do have a true #1 goaltender.

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