CBJ 2016-17 Preview: Goaltending

The Columbus Blue Jackets head into the 2016-17 season with more questions than answers.  

As a matter of fact, after researching the trends, stats and history of the performance of the players in net for the CBJ, only one thing is constant.  Nothing.

Without further ado, I present to you (in the best way that I can) a breakdown of the goaltenders.

 

SERGEI BOBROVSKY

Bobrovsky (also simply known as Bob to fellow CBJ supporters) looked to be on the rise after leading Columbus to a playoff appearance in the 2013-14 season.  Although his play wasn’t quite as outstanding as the year before when he won the Vezina Trophy, it was apparent Bobrovsky had solidified himself as the franchise goalie in Columbus, Ohio.  

 

What I didn’t mention in the paragraph above was that Bobrovsky had a groin injury during the playoff season for the squad.  An injury that ended up coming back multiple times.  Since then, Bob has played in less games each season while simultaneously seeing his goals allowed average rise and save percentage drop.  

 

I could drop a bunch of stats, but those won’t paint a clear picture of Bob’s career in Columbus.  The health of Bobrovsky will likely make or break his career from here on out.

 

Jimmy Hascup from USA TODAY wrote an informative article this past December when Bobrovsky went to the injured reserve once again due to a groin injury.  Essentially, Hascup makes it a point that Bobrovsky is ” borderline elite” and plagued by injury.     

 

Long story short, a once sure-fire stud in the league has been turned into a major question mark.  

 

There’s no need to criticize Bobrovsky or the coaching staff right now.  When healthy he’s a difference maker.  Can he ever be “healthy Bobrovsky” again?  Will he ever come close to dominant form again?

 

JOONAS KORPISALO

Korpisalo made his debut in mid-December at Nationwide Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 

The 22-year old immediately caught the fans’ attention with 27 saves, even in a 2-1 defeat.  He’s a lengthy 6’3″ and shows unreal flexibility and athleticism, contorting his body in ways you’d hope to see from a star goalie in the NHL.  Neither overconfidence nor lack of confidence seemed to be a problem for Korpisalo, as he showed an even demeanor both on the ice and in post-game press conferences.

 

The concerns for Korpisalo are giving up too many “easy” goals.  Part of that has to do with his style in net, but the other part has to do with the positioning of his body.  It’s the norm for dominant goaltenders in the NHL to make it look simple a lot of the time by knowing where to be on the ice and giving the opposing offenses difficult angles to work with when attacking the offensive zone.

 

Before getting into some interesting statistics, it’s important to keep in mind that Korpisalo is still very young, and not playing on a nightly basis as Bobrovsky’s backup may be something coaches want to steer clear of for now (I’m not an expert on the topic, simply pointing out there’s a logical argument either way to how Korpisalo is used this upcoming year).   

 

Korpisalo posted a save percentage of .920 in 30 starts and as a team the Jackets had a save percentage of .909 and the entire league as one was at .915.    

 

In 30 starts, Korpisalo had 16 quality starts and zero shutouts, but only one really bad start (yes that’s actually a statistic, also referred to as RBS, and it refers to a game started with a save percentage less than 85%).  No other NHL goalie started as many games with as few RBS.  One can validly say Korpisalo is really good at not being really bad.  

 

However, the most important statistic from last season was his record of 16-11-4.  Pretty impressive considering the defensive struggles in front of him.

 

The hope is still for Bobrovsky to be healthy and ready to go, but if he’s not, Korpisalo has the resume to be the next man up.  

CURTIS MCELHINNEY

 

It seems likely McElhinney’s playing days in Columbus may be over.

 

Last season only one goalie (Jonas Hiller) in the NHL had as much playing time as McElhinney and saved less than his 89% of shots faced, which was a career low with the club.  In his 12 starts last campaign, only 3 of those were quality starts, he matched that with 3 RBS as well.

 

McElhinney is 33 years old now.  His role will likely diminish due to Korpisalo and some other young hockey goaltending prospects who need experience and may have a bright future in the league.

 

ANTON FORSBERG  signed a one-year extension with the Jackets.  Forsberg, who’s 23-years old, only started three games for the CBJ last season.  However, he was an impressive 9-0 during the championship run for the Lake Erie Monsters, with a .949 save percentage along with two shutouts.

 

The health of Sergei Bobrovsky seems to be the biggest factor to how successful the goaltending will be for the Jackets when October comes around.  IF Bob is healthy, the Blue Jackets realistically could be the most improved team in the NHL defensively, after allowing 3.0 goals per game with only the Calgary Flames allowing more goals last season.

 

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