Mackenzie Blackwood Bounces Back To Help Utica Comets Come From Behind

New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29): Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29): Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

We’ve all been pretty hard on Mackenzie Blackwood. He’s had his struggles on the ice, and it seems a lot of the consternation started with his vaccine decision before the 2021-22 season. Then, he just had the most dreadful season possible. He got injured multiple times, including in the preseason. Even when he was on the ice, he was bad.

This season, he was looking alright outside of one dreadful performance against the Washington Capitals. Removing that game gives Blackwood a .903 save percentage. It’s nothing to go home about, but it’s better than last year for sure.

Unfortunately, before Blackwood could go on a Vitek Vanecek-type run, he got hurt again. He hurt his knee trying to make a sprawling save against the Edmonton Oilers. It was yet another setback in the once promising career of what the Devils hoped was the goalie of the present and the future.

Blackwood is finally ready to get back on the ice, but things didn’t go well in his first night back playing professional hockey. He allowed three goals in the first period. He ended up losing the game, and a lot of it was his fault. That was unfortunate to see.

Thankfully, Blackwood bounced back on Friday night. The desperate Utica Comets needed a win against the Bridgeport Islanders. They went into the game in last place in the North Division. The season went off the rails to start for the Comets, but they have a talented team that can bounce back. They needed a veteran like Blackwood to help.

He finally showed up, leading his team to an unlikely win. Blackwood made some amazing saves, like this one:

Based on the highlights, Blackwood showed good side-to-side movement, stopped pucks in scrambles in front, and didn’t allow a ton of rebound chances. He still let up a weird one at the very end of the second period (it seems the end of periods are bad for both the Comets and the Devils). That put the Comets down 2-1 going into the final frame.

The Islanders were 11-0-0-0 when leading after two going into Friday night. Now, they are 11-1-0-0. Blackwood didn’t allow another goal, and the Comets scored four goals in the third period to win 5-2. It was highlighted by the game-winning goal as Ryan Schmelzer does his best Jack Hughes impression.

Blackwood seemed happy with his performance, as he told Ben Birnell of the Daily Sentinel after the game.

"“Obviously, It was much better than (Wednesday). There are things that I want to improve upon. But, it just takes time and reps. It is a step in the right direction.” –Mackenzie Blackwood to the Daily Sentinel."

Blackwood will be watched with a magnifying glass as he tries to come back from yet another injury. If this is the Blackwood we’re seeing, then the Devils will have a much harder decision to make when he’s fully healthy. Vanecek has been showing a few holes as of late, but Akira Schmid has been a brick wall every time he’s in net.

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Can the Devils send Schmid down again? It’s a hard decision, but Blackwood deserves one more chance to prove he’s the guy or at least the backup.