Joonas Korpisalo of Pori, Finland could have been considered the surprise starting goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets in their opening game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff qualifier against the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario on Sunday. Korpisalo got the start over Elvis Merzlikins of Riga, Latvia, who was absolutely brilliant down the stretch while Korpisalo was out with a knee injury.
While many coaches on the opening weekend of the Stanley Cup Playoff qualifying series picked the wrong goaltender, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella needs to be praised or picking the right one. Korpisalo was extremely steady as he made 28 saves in Columbus’s 2-0 win in game one of the best out of five series.
Korpisalo made 11 saves in the first period, eight saves in the second period, and nine saves in the third period. Columbus’s goal scorers were Cam Atkinson of Riverside, CT, and Alexander Wennberg of Nacka, Sweden. Atkinson had a multi-point game for Columbus as he also registered an assist on the Wennberg goal.
Wennberg’s insurance marker came into an empty net. Moments earlier, Wennberg had an opportunity to put the Blue Jackets up 2-0, but decided to pass the puck instead of shooting the puck. At the time, it was the wrong decision, as Columbus was unable to get a goal on their scoring chance.
The fact that Korpisalo got the start over Merzlikins was a little bit of a surprise if you analyze their goaltenders’ statistics from the regular season. Korpisalo had a record of 19-12-5, a 2.60 goals against average, a .911 save percentage, and two shutouts. Merzlikins had a record of 13-9-8, a 2.35 goals against average, .923 save percentage, and five shutouts.
Even though the Blue Jackets will have the last change being the home team in games three and four of the series, the Maple Leafs will have home-ice advantage throughout. That is because Toronto is being used as one of the two hub cities in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Korpisalo was one of two goaltenders on Sunday to record a shutout. The other was Alex Stalock of the Minnesota Wild, who beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-0.