Mackenzie Blackwood Ate a Slapshot, Washed it Down With His Own Blood, and Immediately Proceeded to Blindly Make the Save of the Night
Priorities. If I had to judge him as a regular person, I’d say those of Mackenzie Blackwood are wildly out of whack after he sucked back blood through the grotesque grates in his newly mangled grill and decided that playing the last 20-some-odd seconds of the second period in a early January game during a season as lost as his incisors was more urgent than having a dental professional tend to whatever shards of his smile remained.
Fortunately, the criteria by which a punching bag for pucks is to be judged couldn’t possibly be more different than that of a sane and rational human being. Therefore, having the composure to live out everyone’s nightmare of frantically and futilely feeling around his mouth for teeth only to make this preposterous no-look save in under the amount of time it would take the average, everyday asshole to even consider showing face is nothing if not impressive...
I wouldn’t say I died on the hill that Cory Schneider would eventually return to form, but I apparently didn’t learn from falling head-over-heels down it every time a crappy goal or a cramp torpedoed his confidence for indefinite stretches of the NHL calendar. Point being, while it’s still way too early to be making declarative statements about Mackenzie Blackwood’s perseverance, coming out the other side of an organizational tire fire without having burned his poise between the pipes beyond recognition is an encouraging sign that he’s as mentally tough as he is physically imposing. I was as staunch a Cory Schneider apologist as any, but a short memory was simply and sadly not one of his strong suits. The same can’t be said about a guy who immediately continued swallowing up vulcanized rubber despite being unable to chew on a marshmallow.
Trying to project the potential of goaltenders long-term is such a fool’s errand that it makes weathermen look like exact scientists, as the performances of puck-stoppers often seem to be dictated by whichever way the wind happens to blow. For that reason, it only makes sense to live in the moment. Still, at this particular moment, Mackenzie Blackwood has the look of a future franchise netminder.
You can credit Nico Hischier for bringing a proud tear to the eye of all Devils’ fans with his game undergoing a perfectly timed growth spurt in the wake of the Taylor Hall trade. You can point to Nikita Gusev finding the ‘ON’ switch for a lightbulb containing 1,000 watts worth of offensive ingenuity. You can finally start to see shades of the point production that once helped win PK Subban a Norris Trophy. However, at the end of the day, the main reason the New Jersey Devils are now winning some games while consistently competing is that their 23-year-old “rookie” goalie has helped off-set the occasional in-zone idiocy of Damon Sieverson and granted them the margin of error to do so on damn near a nightly basis.
Mackenzie Blackwood's recent dominance might only be as sustainable as his early-season struggles to block so much as a beach ball...
However, to even get here from there - as the Devils have actively been hemorrhaging chances in hopes of creating more of their own - hints at his size and athleticism not being wasted on someone whose mettle is anywhere near as easily compromised as his ability to say cheese without traumatizing toddlers.