Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Joonas Korpisalo's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: April 28, 1994
Height/Weight: 6-3, 182
Stats (GP, Record, GAA, Save%, Points shares): 27 GP, 10-7-3, 2.95, .897, 2.7 PS
Contract: Restricted free agent
In some ways, it's hard to remember how long Joonas Korpisalo has been on the Blue Jackets, as the Finnish netminder has been a member of the team for the past four seasons.
Forced into action as a 21-year-old in 2015-16 when Sergei Bobrovsky went down with a groin injury and Curtis McElhinney hurt his ankle, Korpisalo was excellent in 31 games (30 starts), posting a 16-11-4 record, 2.60 goals-against average and .920 save percentage while serving as the No. 1 goalie for a long spell.
Since then, though, with Bobrovsky healthy each of the past three seasons, Korpisalo has been a backup to one of the NHL's elite goalies. He started just 51 games over the three-season span and his numbers suffered, including a 3.06 GAA and .899 save percentage in that span.
That leaves Korpisalo at a crossroads now, as the possible departure of Bobrovsky leaves an open crease. Fellow 25-year-old Elvis Merzlikins has been signed, and Korpisalo seems likely to ink a deal as well as an RFA. Will his fifth year as a Blue Jacket finally provide the opportunity he hasn't had since his initial campaign in Union Blue?
That all remains to be seen. But for 2018-19, Korpisalo had an up-and-down campaign for Columbus.
Entering the season: After two years as one of the main backups to Bobrovsky, Korpisalo entered the season expected to see more time in the crease as head coach John Tortorella made it clear he wanted to develop a better sense of what the goalie was all about.
That even meant Korpisalo was the opening night starter, getting the nod in a lid-lifting road game at Detroit, and Tortorella turned to the goalie more often in the early throes of the season.
What happened: Unfortunately for Korpisalo, he didn't exactly take the reins and run with the increased playing time early in the season. He finished with a negative goals saved above average number for the third year in a row and a save percentage below .900 for the second consecutive season.
At the same time, Korpisalo had his high points, including a 5-0-2 mark to begin the year in his first seven starts. But perhaps his biggest stretch came in mid-January in the aftermath of an incident that left the team without Bobrovsky for a game. Korpisalo stepped in and won three straight starts in impressive fashion, giving up just five goals and posting a .949 save percentage in victories vs. Nashville, Washington and New Jersey. It also showed what Korpisalo is capable of when he feels comfortable in the No. 1 spot, just as his 2015-16 showing did.
Unfortunately for Korpisalo, he was relegated to spot duty for most of the second half as Bobrovsky found his game, and the Finn posted a 1-4-1 record and .886 save percentage after the All-Star break. He did finish on a high note, winning the season finale vs. Ottawa.
Korpisalo's biggest performance of the season came Jan. 12 as the Blue Jackets went on the road and beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals in overtime. Korpisalo was fantastic in the game, allowing just one goal on 33 shots as the Blue Jackets took a tight 2-1 victory.
Video: Panarin powers Blue Jackets past Capitals in OT
By the Numbers
2.21: Korpisalo was at his best against foes from the Metropolitan Division, posting a 2.21 GAA and .920 save percentage in eight performances against division rivals.
.818: One reason for Korpisalo's lower save percentage this year was he saved just 81.8 percent of shots while shorthanded this year. For comparison's sake, Bobrovsky's save percentage while on the kill was .890.
16: With his 16 wins in 2015-16, Korpisalo is the last Blue Jackets goalie other than Bobrovsky to lead the team in wins.