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The New Jersey Devils Goaltending Down the Stretch

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MacKenzie Blackwood seems poised to be the New Jersey Devils unquestioned #1 going forward. The question still remains how to break down the starts between him and Louis Domingue for the remainder of 2019-20.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve discussed it to death here, but the fact remains that goaltending hasn’t exactly been a strength for the New Jersey Devils this season. MacKenzie Blackwood in his true rookie season hasn’t been perfect, but he’s had to put the entire team on his back and carry them to respectable showings more often than not. The same cannot be said of either Cory Schneider or Louis Domingue, to the point where if neither of them were part of the organization next season, I don’t think there would be any surprise.

The New Jersey Devils have 33 games left this season, including tonight’s tilt against the now-John Hynes-led Nashville Predators. Blackwood certainly will not play all of the remaining 33 games, at least I sincerely hope not. I have seen scenarios and suggestions as to how the Devils should split the remaining games between the current pairing, and I wanted to examine some pluses and minuses of them today.

Developmental Route

Scenario: Blackwood gets 2-3 starts for every 1 Domingue gets

Pluses: This scenario would not only allow the team to continue giving Blackwood a starter’s workload, but would also enable them to aid him in improving. While his stats are down across the board this season, anyone who has tuned in has seen that in some of his “poorer” outings, the team has left him out to dry, if they even bothered to show up at all. While this situation isn’t going to improve this season (and could actually get worse depending upon if anyone is dealt at the deadline), the team turning to him more often than not would more than likely keep MacKenzie’s confidence high. High confidence plus an improving the team in front of him next season would fix the stat line, and hopefully boost the Devils’ record.

Minuses: The first issue I see with giving Blackwood roughly 22-25 more games this season is that it could wear him down/result in an injury in what is at this point a lost season. The other is that with the number of times Blackwood has played out of his mind this season, he could steal a few more games than he already has, and weaken the team’s draft position. Honestly the former is more worrisome than the latter, but I understand that some fans would like to see another high pick join the Devils this summer since 2019-20 was such a stinker.

Split Route

Scenario: Half the starts go to each goalie

Pluses: I’ve seen a few fans suggest this route for the rest of the season, and honestly it’s not the worst idea in the world. This would try to avoid injuries/fatigue for both goalies and allow them each to get their reps in hopes of developing the entire team in a competitive environment for next season. Any fans wanting to see the team draft high this summer would probably be happy with this route also, as Domingue hasn’t played as well as Blackwood. An extra 5+ starts for Louis could see the Devils finish bottom 3 in the standings, if they aren’t already destined for that due to poor overall play and again possibly trading players at the deadline.

Minuses: This scenario could weaken the development and/or confidence in Blackwood. I’m not saying that it will, as five games difference isn’t a ton, but the possibility exists. This scenario also damages the team, as they’re a better overall product with Mac in net; if the season is lost, it might be a mistake to have the players trying to continue developing with a guy who might not be back next season.

The Tank Route

Scenario: More starts to Domingue; Schneider called up after trade deadline; Blackwood limited in minutes.

Pluses: To be fair, I don’t think I’ve seen too many people supporting this idea, but it exists, and I want to at least address it, even if I’m vehemently against it. The plus here would be a rested, non-injured Blackwood and Top 2 Lottery odds, as I don’t think anyone will “catch” Detroit. Outside of that, not a whole lot of positivity here, unless Cory finds the fountain of youth.

Minuses: A virtually unwatchable on-ice product would probably top the list here, particularly because if this scenario comes true, it probably means the Devils have sold off players at the deadline and packed it in for the season. This scenario would also probably kill any sort of player development, and the last thing we want is to put Jack Hughes in an even worse environment than we already have.

Your Take

What do you believe the New Jersey Devils should do with their goaltending for the remainder of the season? Should the team prioritize developing Blackwood and likewise the players around him? Should they split the remaining starts between the two goalies? Should they simply try to improve their overall draft odds? Leave any comments and thoughts you have regarding this topic below and thanks as always for reading!