New Jersey Devils: MacKenzie Blackwood’s First Win Could Lead To More Starts

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 27: Nico Hischier #13 of the New Jersey Devils scores against Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on December 27, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 27: Nico Hischier #13 of the New Jersey Devils scores against Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on December 27, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Another New Jersey Devils game day that started with the unexpected news that the reigning league MVP Taylor Hall would miss the game due to the lower body injury that’s been nagging him this month. That made it look even more difficult for the Devils to earn MacKenzie Blackwood his first career win.

Blackwood’s three appearances prior to Thursday night were very good! He definitely earned this opportunity to be in net. The start came against the same exact team that Devils’ legend Martin Brodeur earned his first career win against, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are one of the elite teams in the National Hockey League.

The story on how he earned his first win is pretty unbelievable considering the way the Devils went into the Christmas break, laying an egg against the Columbus Blue Jackets in their final game.

Damon Severson scored about half a minute into the game and gave Blackwood something he had never had before in his very brief NHL career, a lead. Shortly after that, Kyle Palmieri got a fortunate bounce and this 2-0 lead really allowed MacKenzie Blackwood to settle in and make some saves with confidence and less pressure.

In the second period, the Bruins tilted the ice heavily in their favor and spent a good chunk of the time in the Devils end. The Bruins fired 18 shots on net, and only one got by Blackwood when former Devils defenseman John Moore slid the puck to Chris Wagner for his fourth of the season. The Bruins had 42 total shots on net and Blackwood saved 40 of them. Some high danger chances made him look really impressive in this one.

Some other names that stood out in this game are Blake Coleman, Miles Wood and Travis Zajac. Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier and of course Taylor Hall stick out every night for the most part, so Coleman, Wood and Zajac having as good of games as they had is very nice to see. Coleman had two goals, Zajac had an an assist on Severson’s goal and Wood drew a penalty using his speed and then later beautifully set up Nico Hischier’s goal. It was a very good night for each of them.

These guys need to play well, as the trio of Hall, Hischier and Palmieri can’t carry the whole load, and proof is that all three are playing better than they did last season when the Devils were a playoff team. That may be hard to believe, but Hall has more points right now then he did this time last year, Nico is on pace to have more points than his 52 in his rookie year, and Kyle Palmieri is on pace to shatter his point and goal total from last year.

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So what should the Devils do with MacKenzie Blackwood this season? Well he has played too well so far for him to be sent back to the American Hockey League. The Devils have underachieved so far this season. Most people predicted they would be a bubble team and possibly top three in the division. I am not in full tank mode yet, and a run to the postseason could prove to be very good to some guys development.

Blackwood has been the Devils’ best goalie lately, so if the plan is to win he should be the guy. Cory Schneider remains on IR, so the duo of Keith Kinkaid and Blackwood will remain.

When Schneider comes back, then what? Maybe keep three and scratch one of the three every game, dress the two most productive goalies. Kinkaid is in the final year of his contract and then he will be an unrestricted free agent. It is also possible to see what is out there for him as far as a team willing to trade for him.

If Blackwood tails off then send him back to Binghamton and start looking forward to next year, but in his four appearances (2 starts, 2 in relief) he has a 2.16 goals against average and a .939 save percentage which can both be described with one word; excellent!

The Devils are back in action on Saturday for some matinee hockey against the Carolina Hurricanes. This will be a home game for New Jersey. There are some story lines to wonder about going into the game. Whether or not Taylor Hall will return to the lineup is probably the biggest one, and even though they played well without him tonight, everyone knows they need him to help win games on most days. The other question is who will get the start in net for New Jersey? MacKenzie Blackwood seems like the obvious choice but you never know, coach John Hynes has never hesitated to go back to Keith Kinkaid. It will be interesting to see who he calls this time.