New Jersey Devils: This moment isn’t too big for MacKenzie Blackwood

Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

New Jersey Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood will be just fine.

When the New Jersey Devils took the ice against the Boston Bruins for their opening night contest of the 2020-21 NHL season, it marked the official start of the post-Corey Crawford-era.

Now granted, the Corey Crawford-era lasted about three months and didn’t feature a single game, but still, many a fan tuned in to the game wondering just how the boys in red, black, white, and occasionally green would weather losing arguably their biggest free agency acquisition, even if we never got to see the ‘Crow’ on the ice for anything more than a few promo pictures.

If you fall into that camp, I can’t fault you.

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In the NHL, especially this season, you really do need two goaltenders to dish out any sort of meaningful damage. The Bruins have a pair of good goaltenders – such a good pair, in fact, that they are the reigning Jennings Trophy Winners – as do the  New York Islanders and the New York Rangers. Even if you can get a starter on the ice for 45 games – which, in 2020-21 is 80 percent of the games – you still need to find someone to fill the net for 11 more games – all of which can’t be losses if you want any chance of making a postseason push.

With that being said, having one really, really good top-line goaltender (so to speak) does make things a whole lot easier and will surely keep even the most meh team in games regardless of their opponent.

After watching Game 1 of the Devils season, it’s becoming increasingly hard to say MacKenzie Blackwood doesn’t fall into that elite echelon.

Facing off against a Bruins’ squad in their maiden voyage under first-time captain Patrice Bergeron, Blackwood played like a man on fire; blocking 35-37 shots on goal while only surrendering a pair of regulation goals – to Brad Marchand and Nick Ritchie respectably – on a first and third-period power play. Now granted, Blackwood didn’t do it all on his own, Ryan Murray looked great in his first game as a Devil, especially on the penalty kill, but when you’re facing off against an offense that averaged 3.24 goals a game in 2019-20, you have to be impressed with Big Mac’s poise in only his 71 career game.

Blackwood even had a crucial overtime save with 25 seconds left in OT – a save that would have been a game-clincher if Jack Hughes and Travis Zajac were able to take care of business on the other end of the ice.

While the Devils did ultimately go on to lose their opening contest in extra innings off a Marchand shootout goal, it’s hard to lay that solely on Blackwood’s shoulders. The Devils had their chances to win this game over and over a game but consistently fell just short of matching wits with one of the NHL’s premier performers.

Eh, chalk it up to the absence of Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt, I guess.

Next. Ryan Murray is the ideal reclamation project. dark

But hey, it’s not all that bad. The New Jersey Devils did earn a point in a game many a fan chaulked up as a borderline guaranteed L, so that’s something to hang your horns hat on. Heck, if the Devils can play like they did in the third period for a full 60 minutes under new head coach Lindy Ruff, they very well may be further along in their rebuilding process than many initially assumed, with a return to the playoffs coming a bit sooner than many originally anticipated.