Despite the Devils struggles this season, a new star steps up to the goaltending challenge for New Jersey. Mackenzie Blackwood was brought up this week from Binghampton amidst Schneider being placed on injured reserve indefinitely.
Despite some unfortunate losses, the young netminder displayed some exceptional goaltending and performed exceedingly well in his first NHL start. He stopped 36 of 38 shots in his first game as a starting goaltender against the Columbus Blue Jackets, having only let up an aggressive powerplay goal early-on, followed up by a frustrating penalty shot by Cam Atkinson soon after. Despite the Devils’ mishaps, Blackwood’s performance was strong and is already proving to be a promising addition to NJ’s goaltending.
Blackwood signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Devils back in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He was the top-rated North American goaltender ranked by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau and was taken by the Devils in the 2nd round, 42nd overall. Following the 2015 draft, he was placed on the Binghamton Devils, New Jersey’s AHL affiliate, where he remained until he was called back up to the NHL almost half way through the 2018-2019 season.
While Schneider was placed on injured reserve following his recent hip surgery, Devils’ gm Ray Shero remains optimistic that the veteran goaltender is healthy and will make a full recovery. “We’re doing everything we can to help him. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or you’re 32,” Shero said. “It’s our job to find a solution, and certainly Cory’s job as well. We’ll continue to do that. In the meantime, Keith Kinkaid, he’s one of the guys you work with, and you’ve seen the growth in his game the last couple years, growth as a person. It’s been a great story and that’s what you need.”
Last season, the Devils went into the Christmas break as a first-place contender of the Metropolitan Division. This year they are struggling to clear a win. Goaltending has been an issue since Schneider’s injury, but the team has also not been as offensively dominate. If Blackwood continues to perform well, whether it be in a starting position or backup to Keith Kinkaid, it may prove to be a determining factor for the Devils’ rebuild as they continue to structure and reorganize the team.
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