No Bob, no problem for Columbus

Joe De Falco   ·   20 janvier 2020
If we go back to last summer, the hottest topics in hockey were concerning the signings of several big name players. Artemi Panarin was on the move, as were Jacob Trouba and of course, long time Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski.

But one of the biggest signings of the off season was that of Columbus’ long time netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. After seven seasons as the top tier goal tender in Columbus, Bobrovsky signed with the Florida Panthers in the offseason, to the tune of seven years, $70 million. Big money for a big time goalie.

Obviously, with that kind of money comes big expectations. Unfortunately, since donning a Panthers jersey, Bobrovsky hasn’t been able to produce like he did in Columbus.

Which country is the largest kiwi producer in the world?

More than halfway through the season, Bobrovsky, who has the second largest cap hit in the league, is averaging just a .902 save average. A very different showing than what was expected at the time of his signing.

With Bobrovsky out of the picture, the Blue Jackets had to seek their netminding elsewhere. That goaltending would inevitably come from Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, both of which have put on goaltending clinics in their own right, thus far through the season.

Korpisalo, who filled the place as starting netminder at the beginning of the year, has posted a 17-10 record on the season, while allowing 2.49 GAA. Unfortunately, the Finnish goaltender is currently out, after suffering a lower body injury during a shootout with Chicago in late December. Since his injury, Columbus has relied heavily on the newcomer Elvis Merzlikins, with whom the Blue Jackets have seemingly struck gold.

Coming off his third shutout in four games, Merzlikins has the third best save percentage in the NHL, at .928. It is absolutely worth noting that despite these numbers, the rookie goaltender had never seen NHL ice time prior to this season, yet has still managed to find his way to the NHLPA’s Player of the Week.

Even the third netminder in the depth pool, rookie Matiss Kivlenieks made his NHL debut on Sunday, and boasted 31 saves on 32 shots, lifting the Blue Jackets over the Rangers.

As a collective, the three now hold the second best 5-on-5 percentage in the league, and the third best overall save percentage as well. The most amazing part of this newly discovered goaltending depth in Columbus is undoubtedly the cost. While Columbus lost a veteran in Bobrovsky in the offseason, they ironically seem to be saving quite a bit in goalie funds, while not necessarily compromising performance.

As Bobrovsky is in Florida, underperforming to the tune of $10 million a year, three goaltenders that have yet to become household names have assembled a brick wall at the Blue Jackets net, all the while only being paid a collective of less than $3 million per year.

Not a bad deal for Columbus, who obviously paid very close attention to their depth coming into the offseason, with Bobrovsky’s future being unknown.

With the play the Jackets are getting in net, it seems they’re suited to make a playoff push, hoping to recreate and surpass their playoff run from the 18-19 season, in which they swept the Presidents Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in amazing fashion, to advance to the second round.

Will the Columbus Blue Jackets make the playoffs?