MacKenzie Blackwood has a chance to create a bright, shiny memory out of the dark, dreary 2019-20 New Jersey Devils season. While the team has only won 25 games this campaign as of time of writing, 21 of those wins belong to Big Mac. As has been mentioned several times on recent Devils broadcasts, the rookie record for the team for wins in a season by a goalie stands at 27, held of course by the legendary Martin Broduer.
Brodeur has been the holder of that record for over two decades now, largely due to the fact that the Devils didn’t need a rookie goalie to have an extended stint in net during his tenure. Even when his time in net was drawing to a close with Jersey’s Team, Cory Schneider was the heir apparent at that point, and he no longer qualified as an NHL rookie. Blackwood himself just barely skirted the rookie rule by only appearing in 23 games in 2018-19, making this his true rookie season. With exactly 20 games left, including tonight’s tilt in San Jose, Blackwood has a chance to make Devils’ history.
The Similarities in Statistics
Brodeur in 1993-94
Games Played - 47
Games Started - 47
Wins - 27
SV% - .915
GAA - 2.40
Blackwood in 2019-20
Games Played (So Far) - 43
Games Started (So Far) - 39
Wins (So Far) - 21
SV% (So Far) - .916
GAA (So Far) - 2.73
Considering where the Devils are right now, it’s probable that Blackwood will see roughly 10 more starts this season barring any injury. That would put him at 53 appearances overall with 49 starts; that would give him a slight edge over Brodeur in games played, but it’s worth looking at the similar SV percentage right now. Blackwood is one one-thousandth of a point better at the current moment; while it may seem inconsequential, let’s not forget that the 93-94 Devils were a playoff squad, and an Eastern Conference finalist to boot. The 19-20 Devils...not so much. I’m not going to say Blackwood is better than Brodeur (especially given Mac’s small sample size so far) but it’s important to put into context just how much he is doing with so little in front of him.
Why Blackwood Could Do It
While he struggled out of the gate (who didn’t this season?) Blackwood has come on strong for the Devils as the season has progressed. His past six games have all been wins, and over that span he own a ridiculous .970 save percentage. He has only conceded seven goals all while seeing 236 shots come flying at him. While he has had some off nights this season, more often than not he is the reason the Devils take home a win. I firmly believe that if we did not have Mac between the pipes, we’d be battling Detroit for best odds at the first overall pick.
If his hot play continues, there’s no reason that MacKenzie couldn’t pick up seven more wins across a minimum of 10 games. If the Devils give him a couple of extra starts due to back to backs or match-ups against certain teams, he stands an even better chance of breaking the record. The improved play for certain Devils (Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt and Nikita Gusev to name a few) should bolster his chances as well.
Why He Might Not
This might come as a shock to some, but the New Jersey Devils are NOT a good team this season. If Blackwood even reverts to average, he might start losing more games than he wins, as there are some nights where the Devils can’t buy a goal. The Devils also might choose to rest him due to how much his workload has jumped from last season to this season, with it likely to be even higher next season. The Devils also might want to give Cory Schneider a couple more starts down the stretch, just to see if he can be even an average backup for next season.
I’m not management, I’m not making any decisions for the Devils; all I’m stating is that the possibility of some of the above scenarios come to pass. If Blackwood appears in fewer than ten games, the chance of him breaking the record decreases greatly with each game under that mark. He needs seven more wins to set a new record; if he plays in fewer than that, the best he could do would be to tie Marty. If he plays in fewer than six of the remaining 20, then there will be no record.
Personal Feelings and Your Take
I think that Blackwood has done an incredible job during this stinker of a season, and while he has the occasional dud game, his overall play should be encouraging to all Devils fans that starting goaltender won’t be an issue next season. While I’m a big Marty fan, I would love to see MacKenzie own the record; it’s not a major NHL record and he deserves something for having to bail out this squad more often than not. I would also love to see his recent hot streak continue, as with good enough play and enough starts, I think 30 wins could be possible for him before the end of the season.
What are your thoughts on Blackwood and his play this year? Do you believe that he will break Brodeur’s rookie record? Do you even want him to break the record? Are you as positive as I am about him being the solution in goal moving forward? Leave any and all comments below; thanks as always for reading!