Tuesday night in Detroit was a good first step for Blue Jackets’ goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
Korpisalo stopped 41 of 43 shots in his season debut in the Blue Jackets’ 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Lucas Raymond finally opened the scoring in the third period on a great shot and the Wings never looked back. They capped it at the end with two empty-net goals.
Korpisalo was by far the best Blue Jacket on the ice. He frustrated the Red Wings most of the night by stopping everything thrown at him in the first two periods. He gave his teammates more than enough time to settle into the game and find a way to win. It just never materialized for them.
This loss was the Blue Jackets’ first loss of the season. But the story of this game from their perspective was Korpisalo. He struggled most of last season and was looking to start fresh despite still being on the team. He did his job. Now the all important next step has to happen. When called upon, Korpisalo needs to have prolonged consistency.
Korpisalo Has Everything to Play For
Let’s face it. Whether anyone on the team wants to admit it or not, Korpisalo is likely playing his last season with the Blue Jackets. His starts are going to be of utmost importance not only for the Blue Jackets, but for other teams that may have an interest in acquiring or signing him.
Korpisalo’s contract runs out after this season. With Elvis Merzlikins recently signing an extension that will keep him with the Blue Jackets, it’s not a matter of if they’ll move on from Korpisalo, it’s when will they move on.
This illustrates why prolonged consistency in his starts is of utmost importance for the player and the team. For Korpisalo, he’s in a contract year hoping to land his next deal as a number-one goalie. He’s already said that he’s focused on this season and that’s it. Tuesday night, he looked strong even though the team in front of him mostly let him down. With the motivation of a new contract for him, it’s in Korpisalo’s best interest to take advantage of every second of playing time he gets.
But from a team perspective, the Blue Jackets need a consistent Korpisalo to help stabilize the young team. Merzlikins isn’t going to play every game. The Blue Jackets continue to have the luxury of two starting caliber goalies at their disposal. If Korpisalo struggles, that puts the team in a real bind not only for playing time but for possible trade value as well.
The best-case scenario for everyone is Korpisalo consistently playing like he did Tuesday night in Detroit. He’ll keep the Blue Jackets in many games while also boosting his own value for other teams.
But When Could This Happen?
Right now, expect the Blue Jackets to roll with this tandem of goalies. They’ve allowed just five non-empty net goals in three games with each getting playing time. They’re off to a tremendous start.
But as this season goes on, that’s when things start to get more interesting in terms of possible timing. The Blue Jackets certainly don’t want to lose Korpisalo for nothing if he walks as a free agent. He would bring assets back in a deal.
Three possibilities exist. The first one involves a trade in the next couple of months. It could happen. You have seen what’s going on in Montreal this year, right? Teams could find themselves needing a goalie soon to salvage their season if they lose control of October and November.
The second one is the one we will watch the most should it get that far. The trade deadline. If the Blue Jackets are a seller by then, Korpisalo becomes a desired target of teams who might need an upgrade in goal. You could do worse than adding an All-Star goalie to your roster.
And the third we touched on earlier. That’s keeping Korpisalo and then he walks after the season. I can’t see that scenario happening. Maybe if the Blue Jackets are in the race and want to try to make the playoffs this could happen. I just don’t see it though.
No matter when this happens, prolonged consistency is in Korpisalo’s best interest. He needs to show that last season was a fluke and that it’s not his norm. He has to show that he can be a number-one for some other team. Buffalo? Edmonton? Montreal if Carey Price is out long-term?
For both player and team, Tuesday night was the perfect start. But there’s a long way to go here.
Game 3 Side Dishes
- Yegor Chinakhov was impressive in his debut. He had a glorious scoring chance denied by Thomas Greiss. But his decision making was good and was one of the few Blue Jackets who had their skating legs. He’s staying in the lineup for now it seems.
- Due to necessity, expect Boone Jenner to play the role of top-line center for the foreseeable. It really shows the need they have for a top-six center. He did his part Tuesday. He scored their lone goal on the power play and had a good night at the faceoff circle. But as long as their centers are in flux, expect this to change a lot throughout the season.
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- The third pair of Scott Harrington and Andrew Peeke had a rough night. The Red Wings dominated possession when they were on the ice together. With just seven defensemen on the roster, they can only make certain changes. Perhaps Dean Kukan draws in. But that pair could be a revolving door all season.
- We normally don’t overreact to things three games into the season. However Alex Texier hasn’t looked good this season. He was given a chance at top-line center. That didn’t work. Then he was put on the wing Tuesday. He struggled there too. The Blue Jackets must find a way to get his game going soon. The team believes in him. But what is he at this point? That’s tough to answer.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.