If the Devils locker room walls could have talked around last Thanksgiving, those walls would have echoed doubt and distrust in the ability of Mackenzie Blackwood to protect the pipes for the Devils and be the goaltender for the rest of the season, let alone the future of the organization.
Fast forward the calendar four months and that same Blackwood is one of the better netminders in the NHL and has been mentioned in discussions for both the Calder (Rookie of the Year) and Vezina (top goalie) Trophies. The transformation of Blackwood into one of the hottest goalies and rookies in the NHL bodes well to establishing a base to build around for next season and beyond.
Mackenzie Blackwood has developed into the present and the future for the Devils and is arguably the “franchise” goalie now and in the foreseeable future.
While the Devils have brought Cory Schneider back into the fold, their time and investment in Schneider may well be to trade him come to the off-season or keep him around simply to be a backup to the seemingly franchise-tagged Blackwood.
As a potential Calder Trophy candidate, Blackwood doesn’t dominate the discussions in hockey circles as much as Colorado Avs Blueliner Cale Makar or fellow defenseman Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks. However, there is movement on Blackwood as a top-notch rookie netminder as compared to other rookie goalies around the NHL. Blackwood’s 45 stars is one of the highest for goalies in the league and by far leads other rookie goalies with Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets well behind with 32 games played.
When the 2019-2020 season started last October through November, Blackwood posted a 3.12 GAA and a lowly .898 save percentage.
However, Blackwood must have had his Christmas wish answered and since the beginning of December, he has posted a healthy .927 save percentage and lowered his GAA down to 2.43. Blackwood currently sits with a .916 save percentage and has had 1,269 total saves going into this weekend.
He has also posted a 21/13 win-loss ratio and is only one of 11 goalies with 45 or more games played this season and out of these 11 netminders, Blackwood is tied for second with his season total .916 save percentage compared to other rookie and veteran goalies around the NHL.
The future of the Devils at least in the net does like bright by keeping and nurturing Mackenzie Blackwood into a premier goaltender. As the Devils wind down the regular season, efforts will no doubt continue to be made to preserve and develop the positive aspects of this current season and clean out the negativity that plagued this team from the beginning of the season.
Players cannot control management turmoil or coaching removals but they can control their level and commitment of play. As professionals, NHL players are paid high wages to perform in the interest of their organization and win games with the goal of the Stanley Cup playoffs in mind at all times.
The Devils have bright stars on the horizon with future NHL All-Stars in their midst.
Mackenzie Blackwood looks to be a franchise player whom general managers can build a team destined for success around and it’s obviously in the best interest for the Devils to keep Mackenzie Blackwood around for years to come.
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