Column: ‘No one else can be Jonathan Quick.’ Joonas Korpisalo saves own style with Kings

Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo puts his mask back on after a timeout in a game against the St. Louis Blues on March 4.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

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 was the backbone of the franchise’s two Stanley Cup championships and had earned fans’ undying gratitude for those feats despite slippage in his game.

Korpisalo, who was traded to the Kings with defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov for Quick and first- and third-round draft picks, has responded with calm confidence. Playing behind a defense fortified by Gavrikov’s size and smarts, Korpisalo is bringing stability to an area the Kings had to upgrade to have any hope of making a long playoff run. He stopped 78 of 84 shots in winning his first three starts with his new team, a sure way to make new friends — and fans.

He’s not out to make anyone forget Quick. That’s not going to happen.

“I’m just trying to be me, you know? No one else can be Jonathan Quick. He’s a living legend here. So no one can replace that guy. No one,” Korpisalo said a few days ago. “I’m just trying to be me and not replacing anyone, but just bring myself here and doing the stuff I do best.”


Determined to win and the “ultimate team player,” Jonathan Quick played a central role in transforming the Kings into Stanley Cup winners.

March 5, 2023

Quick, who was flipped by Columbus to Vegas, won his first four starts with the Golden Knights, compiling a 2.22 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. But he gave up six goals on 29 shots Thursday in Vegas’ 7-2 loss to Calgary, triggering flashbacks of his starts for the Kings this season. He had a 3.50 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in 31 Kings appearances, which led general manager Rob Blake to make a difficult but necessary trade for an upgrade.

Pheonix Copley kept the Kings afloat while Quick struggled and Cal Petersen fizzled out, but Copley has no NHL playoff experience. Korpisalo has played nine postseason games, all with Columbus in 2019-20, with a 1.90 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Because of that experience, he will have the edge when coach Todd McLellan chooses a playoff starter.

Korpisalo has so far alternated starts with Copley, who had a quietly solid performance in stopping 26 shots Thursday in the Kings’ 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets at Arena. McLellan said the coaching staff discussed interrupting that pattern to match Korpisalo against his former team but decided to leave a good rotation alone.

It would have made for a nice story line for Korpisalo to face his former teammates, but continuing the Kings’ strong run was foremost on McLellan’s mind. They’re on a 7-0-1 surge and have held opponents to two goals or fewer in each of their last seven games. Korpisalo’s turn will come Saturday, when the Kings face Vancouver and can pass Vegas for first place in the Pacific Division if they win.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” McLellan said of starting Copley against Columbus. “There’s no sense or need to get really sentimental. ... It’s the rotation we’ve been going. We don’t need to change anything. And that’s what we’re going with. We’re at a good spot right now. We want to stay in a good spot.”

Korpisalo, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, has made a painless transition to Los Angeles with his wife, young son and dog. His transition to L.A. traffic has been a challenge, and he couldn’t believe a trip from the South Bay to downtown took more than an hour last week.


“It’s something else,” he said. “In Columbus I lived across [from] the rink so I walked 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 are doing a heck of a job letting me see the puck all the time. That helps my game a lot,” he said.

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

Defenseman Drew Doughty, left, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo celebrate a Kings goal against the Blues on March 4.
Defenseman Drew Doughty, left, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo have had a lot to smile about since Korpisalo was traded to the Kings on March 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“I’m so used to knowing what Quickie exactly wanted me to do and I know what he was going to do,” Doughty said. “So it’s definitely an adjustment, but I think the adjustment’s gone really smoothly. Korpisalo is a really good goalie. Good guy. We have a lot of confidence in both our goalies right now. They’re both playing well. It will be interesting to see if one of them takes it over or what’s going to happen. I don’t know.

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


Defenseman Sean Walker said he had formed a relationship with Quick and had a feel for how Quick would play the puck. He’s now developing that with Korpisalo.

Pheonix Copley has helped save the Kings’ season, but his struggles against the Dallas Stars expose the goaltending issues that are hampering the team.

Jan. 20, 2023

“He plays calm 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’s been great to have him around.”

Korpisalo spoke fondly of Columbus, which drafted him in the third round in 2012.

“Eight years in a club — that’s a long time. I was fortunate enough to spend that many years in one club. I don’t think too many guys do that anymore in this league,” he said. “Great memories. Ups and downs. Everyone always backed 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. The Kings are betting that will be enough. They can’t afford to be wrong.