The New Jersey Devils attempted to address their goaltending issues prior to the start of last season with the addition of Corey Crawford in free agency. As we all know, that went downhill fast, with Crawford retiring and the team scrambling to find someone to share the net with MacKenzie Blackwood. We saw how well that worked in 2021, and the organization noticed as well. This summer they went out and signed Jonathan Bernier to share the net with Blackwood, and thankfully he did not retire.
Bernier earned roughly half of the starts in Detroit last season, and posted some decent numbers in doing so. However, Blackwood is the Devils starter, and projects as their main option long term at the position. Additionally, even after struggling through illness last season, Blackwood still received most of the team’s starts; whether that was due to the lack of other available options, I will leave up to you to decide. So how should the Devils go about distributing starts among their tandem?
Even if the Devils decide to go 1A/1B, I think everyone would want Blackwood to still be receiving more of the starts. I will say it’s definitely the correct way to go, as Bernier is starting to wind his career down a little, while Blackwood still has most of his ahead of him. At the same time, burning Blackwood out or overworking him (especially after coming off of the condensed 2021 schedule) isn’t ideal either. So what could a good split look like now that the NHL is back to a full 82 game season?
Nothing ever works perfectly, especially not in a league where high intensity situations can lead to injury, but IF both goalies can stay healthy, I envision at least 50 of the starts going to Blackwood. Now obviously things such as one goalie playing super well and the aforementioned injuries can affect that, but if the Devils are serious about Blackwood being their future, then he needs to be getting the bulk of the work, rather than half or less of it. I do think the team is aware of this as well, and will be using both of their net minders appropriately.
This distribution could perhaps make the Bernier investment look bad; after all, the Devils spent a good chunk of money (some considering it an overpayment) to bring Bernier in. While this may be a situation where we see the backup play a decent portion of games, we need to keep in mind that Bernier is still the veteran backup. He’s here to mentor and challenge Blackwood, not to usurp or replace him. As such, I don’t see the Devils pushing Bernier’s usage all that high, unless injuries play a role in number of games played.
How do you foresee the Devils dividing the numbers of games each goalie gets? Do you want to see Blackwood get more than 50, less than 50, or right around that number? Are you concerned about how much one might have to play if the other gets injured? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!