So can we take some time today to talk about MacKenzie Blackwood? I know we’ve highlighted him on this site before, but hey with the way 2021 has started for him, we’re going to do it again! His return to the New Jersey Devils lineup on Tuesday night was a welcome sight, and he put forth his fourth excellent effort of the season after returning from battling illness related to Covid-19.
As I was listening to the Devils radio broadcast during the game (shoutout to local game blackouts despite MSG not being available in my area of Connecticut), Chico Resch made mention of Blackwood being ranked #22 on the NHL Network’s Top 25 goalies list. Chico was incredulous at that low ranking (and make a pretty funny quip to boot) and I’m with him! How does a goalie like Blackwood keep getting undervalues or ignored by so many pundits?
I would say that the answer here lies with the team that Blackwood plays for, as the Devils haven’t really been any good during his tenure as starting goalie. Definitely not his fault, but when the team in general is bad (unless you’re a certain perpetually bad team across the Hudson) it seems that people around the league just don’t take notice of you. Blackwood has started 2021 looking to change that fact; while he has only appeared in four of the Devils 10 contests, his 3-0-1 record and .948 SV % speak for themselves. Blackwood was the main reason the Devils were able to take three of four points in their opening pair of games against the Boston Bruins, and even after an extended illness, he still came back with 37 saves on 39 shots against Our Hated Rivals. With the team visiting Boston again tonight, I could see Coach Lindy Ruff turning to Big Mac for the third time against the Bruins this season.
While the super high stats Mac currently has are unsustainable, it’s worth pointing out that it’s not as though high level play is new for him. He has stolen games behind bad Devils teams the past two seasons. While again it is early, he might actually have a decent to okay team in front of him right now, which could lead to more consistency in his game. If the Devils continue to play well, and continue to find ways to win games (or continue to outplay some opponents), maybe Blackwood will finally get the same recognition as some other young goaltenders who just happen to play for perceived “better” franchises.
I think that sadly until the Devils find success as a whole, Blackwood will continue to be underrated around the league. Again, maybe it’s due to the team he plays for, maybe it’s due to the pedigree of other goalies in the division (even though Mac was the highest rated North American goalie in his draft year) or maybe more of the league just needs to see him in more contests. But, you know something? I say let others underrate him for now; just makes it all the sweeter when he throws up a strong game against their team.
Do you think MacKenzie Blackwood is underrated? If so, do you think it’s pundits, other teams or both who do so? Do you think he can continue to maintain his high level of play this season? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!