The Columbus Blue Jackets struggled to find consistency with their goaltending on a regular basis since making the playoffs in the 2014-16 season.
The two urgent problems leading to the inconsistencies will be addressed, then a possible solution will come afterwards.
The first problem:
Lack of quality starts
A quality start is defined as a goalie having a save percentage that’s above the average save% for a goalie that season or a save percentage that’s 88.5% or above if the team allows less than 20 shots on a given night. The Blue Jackets have had 38 quality starts in each of the the past two NHL seasons. In 2013-14 the team had 47 quality starts.
First it’s important to make sure Sergei Bobrovsky and Joonas Korpisalo, the players that would appear to be the most reliable goalies, aren’t the problem.
Last season Sergei Bobrovsky had 18 quality starts in 37 games. At that rate he would have about 40 quality starts in a season. Although that’s above the average of the team, that’s not even at a 50% rate. There are a few logical reasons for the lack of quality starts from Bob last season:
- After the 0-8-0 start to the season, everybody’s confidence had seemingly hit a wall.
- Once again, a groin injury affected his season. Before the injury in December, he seemed to be finding a groove. When he returned again later in the season he didn’t seem to come back to top form.
Korpisalo had quality starts in 16 of his 30 for the team. At that rate the Jackets would have about 44 quality starts in a season. Still not high enough. However, Korpisalo was only a rookie last season. If he can improve those numbers at all, the team will be more than happy with an improving defense in front of him.
The numbers drop dramatically with the next two goalies as a whole. Curtis McElhinney had three quality starts out of 12 and Anton Forsberg had one quality start out of three on the season. The last two goalies combined for what would make for a pace of about 22 quality starts in a season.
The second problem:
Really Bad Starts
Really Bad Starts (RBS) is when a goalie has a save percentage under 85% in a game.
A really bad start essentially puts any offense in a very difficult situation on a given night.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 8 RBS of his 37 last season. A rate that would put the team at about 18 for the season. Once again, the awful start to the season and injury directly affected these numbers.
Korpisalo only had one really bad start out of 30. At that rate the team would only have three the entire season. This statistic is a testament to him giving the team a chance to win on nearly a nightly a basis. It’s only one stat, but for a rookie that shows he was focused and not overwhelmed by the pressure of playing in the NHL.
Curtis McElhinney had three RBS out of 12. That would put the team on a pace for 20.5 on the season. That doesn’t look good.
Anton Forsberg had no RBS in his three, but the sample size is so small that it doesn’t say much.
This is the first statistic that at least should make Jackets fans wonder for just a moment if Korpisalo should be the starter in Columbus, Ohio. Just for a moment though.
Once again, it looks like the health of Sergei Bobrovsky is an overriding factor. That’s way easier said than done. If he’s healthier, the team should be able to lower the RBS to under 10 next season whether it’s Korpisalo or Forsberg (who put up great numbers in the AHL playoffs) backing him up. It’s difficult to come up with an argument to play McElhinney much next season.
It appears highly likely the Blue Jackets will have more quality starts and less really bad starts in the 2016-17 season. To make the playoffs they’ll need to improve those statistics by more than a small margin along with improving in other facets as well. At least the Blue Jackets appear to be trending upwards.
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