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Goaltending chemistry key in Monsters' title pursuit

by Alison Lukan / Columbus Blue Jackets
The Lake Erie Monsters are 14-2 in post season play and one win away from a Calder Cup Championship, thanks in no small part to the play of the team’s two goaltenders, Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without either one of those guys,” Monsters head coach Jared Bednar told “I believe our guys are as consistent as anyone in the league.”

In the regular season, Forsberg was 16th in the AHL in save percentage (.914) for goaltenders who played 1440+ minutes. He was tenth overall in wins, with 23 victories in 41 games. Korpisalo played 18 games and put up a .913 save percentage, earning eight wins.

Bednar said that having two strong goaltenders, something he called a luxury, meant he could always trust the play in goal.

 “We saw what Korpi did: (he played) 6 games and was undefeated,” Bednar said. “We ran into a tough time against Grand Rapids and now Forsberg comes in and (wins eight straight games).”

Bednar credits the work that each player puts into their game as well as their “team first” attitudes as the keys to staying sharp for when their number was called. His decisions on which goaltender to play have been based on identifying the right player at the right time.

“I believe our team has a ton of confidence in both guys,” Bednar said. “There’s fluctuation sometimes in their game like any other player. As young players, everyone is still trying to find that consistency to be a dominant player and an impact player every night – goalies are no different.”

With such a strong performances from Forsberg and Korpisalo, including a .920 save percentage that the latter earned in 31 games with the Blue Jackets, the depth of Jackets goaltending prospects is drawing notice.

“Both goaltenders have thrived,” said Greg Balloch, a writer at InGoal Magazine.

“(Korpisalo) has some of the best hands I’ve seen on a goalie recently,” Balloch said. “The Finns love to teach ‘active hands’, which is keeping your hands out in front – it’s great because it helps cut the puck off before it has a chance to rise on you.

“I’ve seen him make next to impossible saves just because of how disciplined his hands are.”

Forsberg, who currently has the second highest AHL post season save percentage (.944), brings a different set of strengths to the net.

“Forsberg is a little bit deeper in his net. His big thing is his post integration – how he uses the post to his advantage. He’s excellent at it,” Balloch said. “He’s very explosive with his pushes transitioning in and out of the position. He’s one of the better prospects I’ve seen at it. It adds confidence to his game.”

Balloch notes that each player can still improve and the ice time they are seeing in the AHL will only help them transition to the next level.

 “Columbus has a good system for molding goalies into NHL caliber athletes,” Balloch said. “And that is always the ultimate goal - to prepare yourself to play in the NHL.”

Balloch says it’s never a bad thing to have too many good goaltenders in your system, and Korpisalo and Forsberg are thriving alongside one another on and off the ice.

 “If you enjoy the guys you work with every day, you’re both going to be further ahead. I think that’s the relationship they have,” Coach Bednar said. “I think they know the team and staff are confident in both of them, and this time of year their mindset is on winning the championship.”


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