New Jersey Devils: Can Mackenzie Blackwood Play 50 Games?

New Jersey Devils - Mackenzie Blackwood #29 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New Jersey Devils - Mackenzie Blackwood #29 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils need to lean on Mackenzie Blackwood this season.

On Saturday, the New Jersey Devils announced the news that seemed inevitable for a couple of days. Corey Crawford was retiring before playing a game in a Devils uniform. The Devils’ great goalie tandem was now completely reliant on Mackenzie Blackwood. Scott Wedgewood will take the backup role for now, and the Devils will eventually have to add another body, but it’s clear that Mackenzie Blackwood is going to take up most of the starts.

How many starts can Blackwood actually take? This isn’t the mid-90s or early 2000s, but the Devils did once have a superstar who played most of the games. Martin Brodeur sat for less than 10 games in eight-straight seasons and in 10 over his career. That included a career-high 78 in 2006-07. His backup Scott Clemmensen got a total of six games played, which included two games where he didn’t play the entire thing.

The massive time on the ice never seemed to bother Brodeur until much later in his career. Brodeur only had fluke injuries until after he was late in his 30s, and that’s when age leads to injuries anyway. Blackwood doesn’t have to play that many games this season since it’s just 56 games, but playing at a 70-game pace might be necessary for the Devils to do anything. Wedgewood hasn’t played an NHL game since the 2017-18 season. He can’t be relied upon for much.

So, how many of the 56 games could Blackwood actually start? Let’s say the Devils never play him on a back to back except once. That gives a little leeway in case Ruff wants to go for it all one weekend. The Devils have seven back-to-back games this season. A lot of those are three-games-in-four-days scenarios.

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That leaves Blackwood at 50 games. It’s highly unlikely the Devils will play him 50 games in a condensed schedule. The Devils play four games in a week eight times this season. That includes a stretch in April where they have to play 12 games in 21 days. Blackwood won’t play the one back-to-back in that stretch, and he will likely get two other games off at some point. Now, he’s down to 48.

There are two-straight weeks starting at the end of January where the Devils play eight games. He will likely need a day off somewhere in there.

Just to round everything out, it’s probably safe to say Blackwood only needs to take 10 games off on this schedule. He’s only 24 years old, and he hasn’t played an NHL game in 10 months. Run him until the wheels fall off, and when they do then the season is probably over. If Blackwood plays 46 games and posts a similar winning percentage as he had last season, the Devils would have 52 points. That would be a 92-point pace. If the Devils can get two wins in the other 10 games, that would leave them with 56 points, and that at least makes the Devils competitive.