New Jersey Devils: Mackenzie Blackwood Silences His Critics

(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood has been panned for his inconsistency all season, but he’s found ways to make the doubters look bad. The continued Saturday night.

To say Mackenzie Blackwood has been on a heater would be a major understatement. He’s stopped every shot from the Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers in a three-day span. It wasn’t like he had easy nights. This is the New Jersey Devils defense he’s playing behind. In fact, he had to stop 83 shots in those two nights.

Blackwood is coming off a less-than-stellar January where he had a .891 save percentage. After a December where he was one of the best goalies in the NHL, it was disheartening to see him fall off. However, it seems like he at least had an excuse as to why he fell off a bit. After he got hit in the face with a puck, causing him to lose his front teeth, he allowed seven goals over his next 39 shots.

If you take out that bad stretch, then he had a .907 save percentage. Sure, that’s not the elite goaltender we saw in December, but that’s a much better performance in a vacuum. Blackwood’s season long numbers would look much better if that was the case. He’s had a .914 save percentage, which may not sound like a big difference from a .911 save percentage, but that’s the difference between being the 26th ranked goalie and being in the top 20.

On Saturday night, he carried the Devils to victory against the Kings. Like we said earlier, it wasn’t easy. He had to stop an Anze Kopitar penalty shot, multiple breakaway and 2-on-1 attempts and three penalty kills.

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The locker room seems to really be getting behind Blackwood. When watching the videos of the speeches after the win, Alain Nasreddine, John Hayden and Blake Coleman all made sure to mention “Blacky” when talking about the win. The interim head coach made that clear in the postgame press conference who carried the Devils to victory.

"“(Blackwood) has been huge. Big saves after big saves, rebound control, so he’s the main reason why we’ve been successful.”"

Obviously, the big moment of the night was the penalty shot and the ensuing stop. Kopitar, the Kings best player by far, skated right past Damon Severson, and he did everything he could to stop the shot from even going off. Then, he was given the penalty shot.

When asked about the shot, Blackwood told the media he didn’t think it deserved a penalty shot, but he couldn’t get caught up with that.

"“I just tried to get out, get big and make him make a move to try and beat me or place a perfect shot. I was fortunate enough able to read that one.”"

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Blackwood is the most important player down the stretch for the Devils. We can chalk up Jack Hughes rough season as rookie jitters and needed to gain size. P.K. Subban could really use a good stretch to end the year and show his $9 million contract isn’t a wash. Lots of players could use a good final two months to give us confidence going into next season, but Blackwood is the most important Devils player of all.

Some national media will never have faith in Blackwood. Puck Soup this week made a joke about Blackwood being the answer when referencing teams that might go after the New York Rangers Alexandar Georgiev. It’s fine. Let everyone doubt the 23-year-old goalie who gets better the more he plays. One day they’ll stop talking bad about him, but it likely takes more shutouts.