The Future Looks Bright For Devils Mackenzie BlackwoodPosted: Updated:
Binghamton, N.Y. - It's moments that matter in life, right? Sometimes they're small, sometimes they're big, sometimes several moments that all come together as one. For New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, that happened in December of 2018.
On Monday, December 17 the 22-year-old received the call all AHL players dream about, the call that allows all of their years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice to finally all come together. But once it's over, it’s all business.
That cold December Monday morning was when Blackwood was called up to the big club. With NHL veteran goalie Cory Schneider put back on the injured reserve after an abdominal strain and Keith Kinkaid having a less than stellar season, Blackwoods chances of making his NHL debut were more than hopeful. Less than 24 hours after receiving that phone call, that hope became a reality for the Thunder Bay, Canadian native. The young goalie clocked 20 minutes of relief in the Devils game against Toronto.
Now, what came after that? Well, the rest is history. The rookie literally made history, on a team that has been struggling with consistent goal tending this season, Blackwood showed some glimpses of hope. Recording back-to-back shut outs on December 29 and December 30, Blackwood became the first Devils rookie goaltender to ever post back-to-back shutouts. But, wait, Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur had to have done that? In his four rookie games with the Devils, he never did. Blackwood was the very first.
"Goalies I've always watched, that didn't even happen for them” said Mackenzie Blackwood. “But, you have to take it and be appreciative when it happens. Just know it's not going to last forever.”
"I didn't really have time to sit back and think about it. But, the last couple of days here in Binghamton, I had a second to think about it. But, you know, you can't be satisfied. It's cool it happened, but now you keep trying to build off it and keep going” Blackwood said.
However, Blackwood’s historic experience in the NHL was short and sweet, the 22-year-old was sent back to Binghamton on January 19 during New Jersey’s bye-week.
The highs, the lows, finding constant consistency, it's the name of the game. But even throughout his ups and downs during the 12 games he's played with New Jersey, he's showing great potential.
"That's when you're lifestyle and habits come into place” said Blackwood. For sure, I mean, you can't just get content with where you’re at. You can't get down on some failures. You have to stay level and keep going, stay even keel.”
The 22 year old's poised and laid back nature goes well with his mature and wise beyond his years personality. It’s the intangibles, characteristics of the players that we we can’t teach. They simply get it or they don’t.
“You know you almost forget how young he is still” said New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider. “It’s great to see a young guy kind of have success and feel good about his game. So, you want to help him and support him. Simply reinforce that he’s doing the right thing.”
11-year NHL goalie Cory Schneider knows all about the ups and downs. The 32-year-old has been dealing with nagging injuries for the last three years. We haven’t seen All-Star goalie Cory Schneider since 2016. It’s been about three years since Schneider has played at his full potential and that of course has led to a lot of question marks.
“The last couple of years have been hard. It hasn’t been the easiest career wise” said Schneider. “I’m looking to rebuild my game right now and get back on track.”
Scheiders play in the crease, or lack of, has certainly forced a lot of fans and spectators to express their opinions on Schneider’s future with the Devils. Those question marks have also led to questions regarding Blackwood. Can Blackwood save their season? Can Blackwood be the future?
In Blackwood's 12 games with New Jersey he has a .924 save-percentage. In Comparison to the rest of the NHL, Blackwoods stats are good and if he had enough games to qualify for league standings, he would find himself fourth in the NHL in save percentage. Although Blackwood suffered a lower-body injury on January 4, and hasn’t been as consistent as his first week in the NHL, he’s still putting up good numbers when you look at the goaltenders around him.
"It's not going to be perfect, even the best in the world aren't going to get it all the time” said Blackwood. So, just be realistic and have realistic goals. Keep working and try to get better everyday.”
Although Blackwood's immediate future during New Jersey's bye-week is here in Binghamton, his future in the crease for New Jersey, certainly looks bright.