The Columbus Blue Jackets suffered a devastating injury on Sunday, and head coach John Tortorella was furious after the game. In other news, the United States had a strong showing at the World Junior Championship (WJC), and their goaltender is responsible for much of that success.
Korpisalo Goes Down
Entering the season, goaltending was one of the Blue Jackets’ biggest questions. Joonas Korpisalo had never started more than 30 games in a season (2015-16), and now, he was slated to be the everyday starter for a team in retool mode. Would he be able to handle the responsibility?
Fortunately for the Blue Jackets, Korpisalo stepped up to the challenge. Though he hasn’t been flawless, he has been the definition of a workhorse. He entered Sunday with a league-leading 31 games played. His record was 17-10-4, and he had a solid .913 save percentage (SV%) and 2.52 goals against average (GAA), along with 3.70 goals saved above average (GSAA). He’d become one of the Blue Jackets’ most important players.
Which is what makes Sunday’s turn of events so unfortunate. The Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks went into overtime tied at two. In the closing seconds of the game, Zach Werenski pushed a puck over the line, but the referees ruled that time had expired. In the ensuing shootout, Korpisalo suffered his injury, coming up lame on his right leg.
To make matters worse, there was an incident slightly earlier in overtime that might have prevented this. At 19.2 in the game, the whistle blew, but an extra 1.1 seconds came off the clock and was never addressed. In theory, had everything else gone the same, Werenski’s goal would have counted with an added second, and Korpisalo would not have been injured. Tortorella was quick to point this out — in his infamously colorful language — in a furious and brief postgame press conference.
While there’s no word yet on the severity, our Mark Scheig took a look at the domino effect of Korpisalo’s injury. He is the primary reason the Blue Jackets are within striking distance of the postseason, and if he is injured for an extended period, they may look to sell at the deadline rather than contend. Hopefully, Korpisalo will be back on his feet soon.
Knight Strong at WJC
Spencer Knight is one of the top NHL goaltending prospects for a reason. At just 18 years old, he has dominated at every level of the game. It was enough to convince the Florida Panthers to spend the 13th overall pick on him, and so far, they have not been disappointed.
Even so, Knight had struggled somewhat at the international level, including a shaky first start at this year’s WJC against Canada. But on Sunday, he put an end to that: he stopped 25-of-26 shots against him as the Americans powered towards a 3-1 victory.
Prior to his WJC responsibilities, Knight has dominated in his first collegiate season at Boston College. He’s played 15 games and has a 1.73 GAA and a .940 SV%. This remarkable young netminder has a bright future, and for the next two seasons, he’ll make the United States a nightmare at the WJC.
Greatest Saves of the Decade?
With the 2010s ending this week, everyone is taking a look back at the decade that was (for those interested, there are a number of retrospective posts to be found around The Hockey Writers!) The NHL can’t help but get in on the action, so they released a video of some of the greatest saves of the decade. It’s an impressive collection.
What could be better than 10 minutes of jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, chest-pounding saves? From Nikolai Khabibulin’s cartwheel kick save to Marc-Andre Fleury’s stretching glove robbery a few weeks ago, this video is well worth your time.
To find our goaltending retrospectives, and everything else about the wacky world of NHL goaltending, check out THW’s goalie page here.