Can Korpisalo Lead the Senators to the Playoffs?

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of high expectations for the Ottawa Senators going into the season, and with good reason.

For starters, this team can put the puck in the net. With the likes of Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk, Claude Giroux, Drake Batherson, and newcomer Vladimir Tarasenko, the puck should have no problem going in the net this season.

The team’s offense could get even better if the team finds a way to sign forward Shane Pinto. Pinto, 22, is a restricted free agent, and the team has yet to sign him, despite the fact that he finished last season with 20 goals and 15 assists for 35 points.

Defensively, this team should hopefully be a bit better than last season when they finished 20th in the league in goals allowed. Players like Thomas Chabot, Jakob Chychrun, Jake Sanderson, Travis Hamonic, and Erik Brannstrom should not only be better about keeping the puck out of the net this season, but they should also be able to contribute some offense.

That brings us to the team’s goaltending. For the last few seasons, the Senators have gone through a plethora of goaltenders to no avail.

The Senators are hoping that changes as they signed Joonas Korpisalo to a five-year deal worth $4 million annually. While the team has Anton Forsberg as Korpisalo’s backup, it will be up to the 29-year-old to somehow get this team into the playoffs in what is a very tough Atlantic Division with the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres and even the Detroit Red Wings all being looked at as clubs that can make the Stanley Cup playoffs come April.

Korpisalo has a lot to offer this team. For starters, Korpisalo showed that he can be an above-average goaltender, even playing on a bad hockey club like he did for several seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. In 28 games with the Blue Jackets last season, he still managed to post a .913 save percentage behind the league’s second-worst defense.

Speaking of save percentage, he has a career save percentage of .904 despite playing seven-and-a-half seasons with the Blue Jackets. Yes, that save percentage is low, but in looking at the way the Blue Jackets have played defense over the last several seasons, that number is actually quite good.

Korpisalo has shown that he can play well after joining a new team. Last season, the Blue Jackets traded him to the Los Angeles Kings, and upon joining them, he put up some great numbers.

In 11 games with the Kings, Korpisalo was 7-3-0-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average, a .21 save percentage, and one shutout. Due to his fine play to wrap up the regular season, he ended up earning the team’s starting goaltender job for last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Korpisalo is also a tough goaltender to beat when he plays with a lot of confidence, something that he has going into this season. When he has faith in himself, he covers up a lot of the net, controls his rebounds, makes big saves, and steals games, something that Senators goaltenders have struggled to do over the last few seasons.

Now, with the big contract, it will be on Korpisalo to deliver the goods this season, which may be a tough ask. As mentioned above, the Atlantic Division is extremely competitive, and right now, the team is without the likes of Pinto and Josh Norris, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery that he had last January.

With that said, this is a big opportunity for Korpisalo to show that he can be a full-time starting goaltender and one that can carry a team into the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what he does with it!

Patrick Hoffman

Patrick covers the NHL for Inside The Rink. He has previously covered the league for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave, WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

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