Mackenzie Blackwood Put Forth A Winning Effort In His First NHL Start, Even Though The Devils Did Not
Full disclosure, if not for a rookie netminder displaying veteran-like composure in keeping a largely lifeless team in the game for the first 40 minutes of game that they probably shouldn't even have had a chance to win in the final 20, I wouldn't have had enough original things to say to be writing about yet another demoralizing Devils' loss.
The laughable desperate lineup changes that can be best explained by the type of inquisitiveness that could get someone to eat dog food out of morbid curiosity were quickly boycotted. Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson basically gave the middle finger to both their coach and their goaltender by jockeying for the position of RHD while the LHD's responsibility tapped home a goal that was easier to attain than the signing up for a gym membership step of getting in shape...
Taylor Hall, as he's become one to do in trying to dig the Devils out of their depressive state, did a little too much in turning an odd man rush for into a scoring opportunity against so quickly that it made Nico Hischier jealous. Then Cam Atkinson, as he's become one to do over the years, killed the Devils, this time with the resulting penalty shot...
I suppose a bunch of other shit happened along the way, but - all in all - it was a familiar 'too little, too late' type effort from a Devils' team that made things far too easy on their opponent and waited until the 3rd period to show any sort of urgency offensively.
What wasn't familiar, however, was Mackenzie Blackwood and the combination of size (I don't know if you've heard, but you can't teach that), positioning, and athleticism he put together in giving his team every opportunity to conjure up some competitiveness. Whether it was stopping Artemi Panarin on the doorstep more times in a three second span than he's been stopped by a Devils' goaltender...well...maybe ever, or getting across the crease in a form and fashion that made Cory Schneider in fast-forward seem slo-mo, Blackwood was a breathe of fresh air to a crease that basically been black mold whenever Keith Kinkaid isn't at the top of his game.
One game makes not a successful career, of course, but it was encouragingly obvious why he was drafted so high, and (not to name names, but...) that's sadly not something that can currently be said of all members of that same Devils' draft class. Relative to a season of overwhelmingly negativity, a standout effort that - even in defeat - made the goaltending situation seem slightly less doomed is a pretty big positive. For that reason, I'm not sure MacKenzie Blackwood is more deserving of a 'thank you', a 'congratulations', or a 'sorry', because (with the help of a few posts) his 36-save performance was an appreciated accomplishment that went completely to waste...