The New Jersey Devils got a preview of what could be the new Hudson River Rivalry. Mackenzie Blackwood and Igor Shesterkin will be the future of both of these franchises.
The New Jersey Devils had a major victory over their biggest rivals the New York Rangers. Igor Shesterkin was back for the first time since he broke ribs in a car accident right before the NHL Trade Deadline. It was clear he wasn’t right after allowing five goals in the first two periods.
Shesterkin has been one of the best young goalies in the league. He had a .940 save percentage before the injury. If he qualified to get listed for save percentage stats, he’d be ranked number one in the league, and it wouldn’t be close. After his disaster performance on Saturday night, he’s behind just Florida’s Chris Driedger for the leader among all goalies, qualified or not.
On the other side of the ice is Mackenzie Blackwood. Seemingly overnight, his advanced stats have him in the Calder Trophy “conversation”. He’s not going to come close to Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes, and this might just be conversation changes after overload on the other two, but it says something when respected media members are willing to even float the idea.
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In October and November, Blackwood’s save percentage was under .900. Then, since December, he’s got a .927 save percentage.
Going back in time, goalies have dominated the Devils-Rangers rivalry. Martin Brodeur and Mike Richter were the leaders of the early great teams. This article from back in 2000 shows that these two were compared for years after the guarantee.
The rivalry that stands the test of time is Martin Brodeur versus Henrik Lundvist. Especially during Brodeur’s twilight years when he wasn’t exactly elite anymore, it seemed like Rangers fans were trying to say the torch was officially passed, and Devils fans did not like hearing that. We continue to hear “no cups” jokes about Lundqvist. Then, there’s the personal life of Brodeur and the fact Sean Avery was able to successfully get under his skin.
Shesterkin and Blackwood don’t seem to have those types of personalities that personal rivalries will motivate them. However, if they are going to be linked for the next decade, then it might get in their heads a little about the comparison. Being in such close proximity to each other, and their close proximity in age (they are almost exactly one year apart, with Blackwood as the younger of the two), their link is inevitable.
The Devils and Rangers thought they were going in a similar direction, but props to the Rangers, they rebuilt in an insane way overnight. After saying dark days were ahead, it seems like they already see the light at the end of the tunnel while the Devils have nothing but question marks moving forward. One thing that appears to be a lock is the Devils and Rangers are moving past their older goalies (Cory Schneider and Lundqvist) and moving forward with the young guns. That’s only going to make a great rivalry even better.