Elliott: ‘No one else can be Jonathan Quick.’ Joonas Korpisalo brings his own style to Kings

When the Kings acquired Joonas Korpisalo from Columbus on March 1, they gave the red-bearded Finnish goaltender a warm welcome and an unenviable task: succeeding Jonathan Quick, who had been and always has been the backbone of the franchise’s two Stanley Cup championships still had the undying gratitude of the fans for this, despite the obvious deviation in his game.

Korpisalo, traded to the Kings along with defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov for first- and third-round quick and draft picks, has responded with quiet confidence. Playing behind a defense bolstered by Gavrikov’s size and intelligence, Korpisalo brings stability to an area the Kings had to upgrade to have any hope of a long playoff run. He stopped 78 of 84 shots as he won his first three starts with his new team, a surefire way to make new friends.

He doesn’t want anyone to forget Quick. That will not happen.

It’s not a Quick Lite either. He doesn’t have to be.

“I’m just trying to be me, you know? Nobody else can be Jonathan Quick. He’s a living legend here. So nobody can replace this guy. Nobody,” Korpisalo said after the team trained in El Segundo on Wednesday. “I’m just trying to be myself and not to replace anyone, just bring myself here and do what I do best.”

Flipped to Vegas from Columbus, Quick has made a tremendous turn at the Golden Knights, going 4-0 with 2.22 goals against average and 0.930 saves in his first four starts. He hasn’t been anywhere near that level with the Kings, averaging 3.50 goals against average and 0.876 percent in saves in 31 games this season. That wouldn’t be good enough.

Phoenix Copley kept the Kings afloat while Quick struggled and Cal Petersen fizzled, but he has no NHL playoff experience. Korpisalo has played nine postseason games, all with the Blue Jackets in 2019-20, and has a 1.90 clean sheet average and a .941 save rate. That will likely be enough to name Korpisalo a playoff starter.

So far, however, Korpisalo has alternated starts with Copley, and Thursday will see Copley turn when the Kings take on Columbus in the third game of a seven-game homestand. Coach Todd McLellan said the coaching staff considered breaking that pattern to let Korpisalo face off against his former team but decided to leave a good thing alone. It would have made a nice story – Gavrikov joked he was looking forward to competing against “just about anyone” – but McLellan’s main concern was to continue the team’s strong run.

“I don’t think that will change. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” McLellan said. “There’s no point or reason to get really sentimental.

“I know it’s Korpi’s former team. But Copley will play. It’s the rotation that we went through. We don’t have to change anything. And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re at a good point right now. We want to stay in a good place.”

Korpisalo, who is eligible for the unrestricted free hand post-season, has made a painless transition to Los Angeles aside from being caught in traffic Tuesday on a one-hour drive from the South Bay to Crypto.com Arena. “It’s something different,” he said. “I lived across the street in Columbus [from] the ice rink, so I went there every day. … It’s a lot different. But you get used to it pretty quickly.”

His adjustments on the ice have gone well. “The guys do a damn good job of letting me see the puck all the time. It helps my game a lot,” he said.

Defender Drew Doughty (left) and goalkeeper Joonas Korpisalo have had plenty to laugh about since Korpisalo was sold to the Kings on March 1.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The adjustments go both ways. After so many years of hearing Quick’s voice and learning about Quick’s preferences in various situations, defender Drew Doughty understandably finds it strange to hear and see someone else in goal.

“I’m so used to knowing exactly what Quickie wanted from me, and I know what he would do,” Doughty said. “So it’s definitely an adjustment, but I think the adjustment has been really smooth. Korpisalo is a really good goalkeeper. Good guy. We have a lot of faith in our two goalkeepers at the moment. They both play well. It will be interesting to see if either of them take it or what will happen. I don’t know.

“It’s different not being here with Quickie but as sad and disappointing as it was we have to move on. That’s just the bottom line.”

Defenseman Sean Walker said he developed a relationship with Quick and had a feel for how Quick would play the puck. He is now developing this with Korpisalo.

“He plays calmly and he also calms us down a lot. He’ll make those big saves, he’ll freeze the puck when needed. He’s been great so far. His numbers show that,” Walker said. “It was great to have him with us.”

Korpisalo spoke fondly of Columbus, who drafted him into the third round in 2012. He expected he would feel “a little weird” seeing his former teammates even if he doesn’t have to face them.

“Eight years at the club – that’s a long time. I was lucky to spend so many years in a club. I don’t think many guys do that anymore in this league,” he said. “Great memories. Ups and downs. Everyone was always behind the team there. It’s just a great place and great memories for me and great people.”

He’s not the second Jonathan Quick – he’s the first Joonas Korpisalo. Kings are betting that this will be enough. You can’t afford to be wrong.

Source : www.latimes.com

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