New Jersey Devils Moving Forward With Mackenzie Blackwood As Starting Goaltender

Mackenzie Blackwood

The New Jersey Devils have a dilemma on their hands after the news came out surrounding their starting goaltender. Mackenzie Blackwood confirmed on Tuesday that he was the player unvaccinated heading into training camp. General manager Tom Fitzgerald noted there was only one when the Devils opened training camp and they would help that player resolve that issue. However, what does this do for the Devils moving forward in regards to that position? As for now, nothing, as the team views Blackwood as the starting goaltender and moving ahead with those plans.

Mackenzie Blackwood Is The Starting Goaltender For The Devils

The Devils are heading into a season with high hopes to be playing meaningful games by the end of the 2021-22 regular season. A big reason will be Mackenzie Blackwood. In addition to Blackwood not being vaccinated, he did also told the media on Tuesday he had off-season ankle surgery. This was quite a shock to some as there were no whispers or rumblings anything was wrong with him at the end of the season. Apparently, this injury had been nagging him for a while and this was the best course of action.

Speaking with the media, Blackwood says he is on track for opening night. He is looking for the last bit of explosiveness and strength to come back to his ankle. Blackwood feels he is reading and tracking the puck very well out on the ice and his game is coming together nicely. Like all players, he wants to continue to grow and work on things and by the start of the season, he will be ready to go.

This is an encouraging sign for Devils fans out there as Blackwood will be shouldering a lot of the workload this season. However, that does not mean he will be playing every game. As of now, Blackwood will miss at least nine games this season. That is because he cannot play any games in Canada. Head coach Lindy Ruff is not worrying about that right now.

Ruff is taking a day-by-day approach when it comes to Blackwood. He is going to do everything in his power along with the team to get Blackwood ready and in between the pipes for Game 1. Whether he is vaccinated or not is not going to change the fact Ruff views Blackwood as the number one. Ruff has been around this game long enough to know you can’t worry about the unknown. If and when Blackwood cannot play those nine games, that is when the team will have a different approach. But for now, things are on track for Blackwood to be the starter.

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Going Forward

New Jersey has a solid option for when Blackwood cannot play those games in Canada. Jonathan Bernier was signed this past off-season to serve as the backup to Blackwood. On a bad Detroit Red Wings team, Bernier posted a 2.99 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Those are solid numbers. And considering New Jersey wants to have a split this season for their goaltending duo, Bernier is a good option to have. Especially for those nine games. Obviously, Bernier will play more games, but right now if nothing changes he is guaranteed at least nine games.

Do the Devils have to worry about getting another goaltender? Potentially. But again the team is not worried about that right now. It will be interesting if things remain the same, how the team will approach Blackwood once he becomes ineligible to play games. Not to mention if regulations start to change in New York and California. Right now the homes teams only need to be fully vaccinated and visiting teams can play in those arenas, but that could change. And if that does, then the Devils will really be in a bind.

Again luckily the Devils are not in that situation right now. The Devils will do what is best for the team so they are in a position to win. And Blackwood is a part of that approach. However, even though December 3rd is a little two months away, the weeks will fly by quickly and that date will be right around the corner. For the sake of the team, Blackwood and the Devils better resolve this issue sooner rather than later.

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