He did it again.
The wide-eyed rookie goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets put up his third shutout in his last four starts. Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 41 shots that New Jersey threw at him catapulting the Jackets to fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, tied with the Flyers at 58 points. The 5-0 final was rather deceiving, however. One might think that Columbus was all over a struggling Devils squad last night, but the reality is it was that way for only less than half of the first period.
In his postgame media conference, head coach John Tortorella pointed out that the team only played as a team for about six minutes. After that, Torts said he felt like the team stood back and watched Merzlikins do his thing. Making it a point to right any kind of lackadaisical play again, the Jackets coach confidently and stoically mentioned that will be fixed.
Back to the star of the show though, Elvis Merzlikins continues to dazzle crowds and his teammates with his uncanny play as of late. With this string of accomplishments, Merzlikins isn’t the only Elvis playing in the building. Nationwide Arena now blasts a regularity of Elvis Presley through those speakers in recognition of the team’s latest headliner.
What will happen when starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo returns from injured reserve in a few weeks is unbeknownst to me, and truthfully, just about everyone else outside of John Tortorella’s office. I talked about this ‘good’ predicament recently. Not to be a broken record, but Merzlikins will definitely have more playing time as a backup than he did before. At the same time, one doesn’t want to shelve the hot hand only to have him regress.
Goalies thrive on playing time, just as during a game a goalie can thrive on getting peppered as opposed to facing sporadic shots that are few and far between. To throw an old adage out there, time will tell, and that time is coming rather soon.