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With absolutely nothing happening in the hockey world right now, and for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided to take the plunge and write player profiles for each member of the New Jersey Devils.
As was the case when I did them last summer, we’ll be looking at the season they just put together and expectations moving forward.
I’ve written up nine players thus far, with Cory Schneider being the most recent.
Today we’re going with Mackenzie Blackwood.
47 games played, 22-14-8, .915 save percentage
.926 save percentage, .870 high-danger save percentage, +8.42 goals saved above average
Mackenzie Blackwood was easily the biggest bright spot on this year’s Devils team. I’m not sure anyone came close, especially given the importance of the position and the lack of talent New Jersey has in net throughout the organization.
Blackwood, like the Devils as a whole, started the season kind of shaky. He righted the ship like no other, though, and provided the team with as good of goaltending as they possibly could have hoped for from the 23-year-old.
Blackwood owned a .915 save percentage, well above the league average of .905. He posted a .838 save percentage on high-danger shots, tied for 8th among 58 eligible goaltenders (1,000+ minutes). He also went eight games above .500 on a team 29th in wins. The Devils played at the pace of a 97 point team (playoffs!) in games Blackwood started.
You don’t need me to tell you how impressive that is considering how bad the Devils were this season. They were a disaster defensively. They couldn’t hold leads. They couldn’t score either (only six teams found the net fewer times). The only thing they were really good at was killing penalties and yet they played at nearly a 100 point pace with Blackwood between the pipes.
He deserves all the credit in the world for that; he routinely won games almost single handedly.
45 goaltenders appeared in at least 30 games. Only Tuukka Rask fared better than Blackwood against high-danger shots.
Blackwood will enter the season as the 1A starter (if not more). He has to. He can’t have that kind of year he had – performing at an elite level on a bad team while carrying a large workload – and be rewarded with a lesser role.
That said, I think the Devils will bring in someone reliable to push Blackwood. At least they should. Now more than ever, teams need two quality goaltenders. The Devils have learned that the hard way in recent years and I think they’ll be looking to rectify that.
My expectation is they’ll move on from Cory Schneider – one way or the other – and add somebody competent to serve as the 1B in a platoon. I’m not sure they’ll target a big fish for that (Robin Lehner, for example) but I think a guy like Thomas Greiss or Cam Talbot would nicely fit in that role.
numbers via naturalstattrick.com and hockey-reference.com
Reilly Walsh is returning to Harvard for his senior year
2020-21 player profile: Cory Schneider
2020-21 player profile: Travis Zajac
2020-21 player profile: Pavel Zacha
2020-21 player profile: P.K. Subban
2020-21 player profile: Jack Hughes
2020-21 player profile: Miles Wood
2020-21 player profile: Jesper Bratt
2020-21 player profile: Nico Hischier
2020-21 player profile: Will Butcher
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An in-depth look at the Coleman and Greene trades