The Emergence Of New Jersey Devils Goalie Creates A Good Problem To Have

OTTAWA, ON - NOVEMBER 19: New Jersey Devils Goalie Akira Schmid (40) prepares to make a save during first period National Hockey League action between the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators on November 19, 2022, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For the longest time dating back to the early 1990s, the New Jersey Devils have been known for their goaltending. Play between the pipes led by Martin Brodeur helped capture three Stanley Cups and long-term success for the franchise. But ever since his retirement, the solution between the crease has been inconsistent. As we all know the Devils cycled six different goaltenders last season which consisted of Mackenzie Blackwood, Nico Daws, Jon Gillies, Akira Schmid, Andrew Hammond, and Jonathan Bernier. This season has gone differently, and the goaltending has been solved. But the elevated play of one goalie, in particular, creates an excellent problem to have in the crease.

New Jersey Devils Akira Schmid Performing Well In Call Up

Over the off-season, Tom Fitzgerald addressed the goalie position. After the way last year went, going into this season with suspect goaltending was not ideal. And given the record of the team, it was an intelligent decision. At the draft, the Devils acquired Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals and signed him to a three-year extension. He is the clear-cut starter for the Devils and has been a rock in the net. In addition to his stellar play, New Jersey Devils Akira Schmid has filled in the backup role, and his stellar play has been noticeable. With Blackwood still out with injury, this is where the problem lies.

Emergence Of New Jersey Devils Akira Schmid

Last season Schmid was part of the goalie carousel that never stopped turning in New Jersey. Of all the goalies that suited up for the Devils, he finished with the third worst goals saved above expected (-9.3). Granted he only played six games, but allowing 19 goals across those games was not good for him. Schmid had the worst goals-against average (4.83), and his save percentage was .833 (also the lowest). Safe to say, seasoning in the AHL with the Utica Comets did him some good.

New And Improved

Since Mackenzie Blackwood went down with an injury, Schmid has been great for the Devils. In fact, it’s a significant improvement from last year. He has only started four games, but he holds a 4-0 record for the club. His numbers have improved significantly as he has a 1.24 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage. He has allowed four goals in his starts, and the biggest boost of confidence was when he came in relief for Vitek Vanecek against the Ottawa Senators on November 10th. Schmid secured that victory and looked very good doing so. The young goalie has 4.7 goals saved above expected (best on the team). What’s even more glaring issues played three fewer games than Blackwood but has allowed 13 fewer goals.

As a goalie, you will face shots from different areas of the ice. While performing better in the high danger and posting a perfect save percentage in the low danger, he’s improved in one area noticeably. The area where Schmid has improved is the medium danger area. Last season was so bad for him that he posted a .581 save percentage in that area. That number has improved majorly as it has jumped up to .938. In just two fewer games than last season, Schmid has become a totally different goaltender for the Devils. This poses the problem in terms of what happens when Blackwood returns from injury.

All Statistics Come From Money Puck

What They Can Do About Blackwood

With the emergence of New Jersey Devils goalie Akira Schmid, you can ask yourself a question. What happens with Blackwood? When Mackenzie Blackwood got drafted, all signs pointed to him being the goalie of the future. After a solid 2019-20 campaign, optimism was set in. Fast forward two years, and he is coming off his two worst seasons and is battling injuries left and right. Vanecek being acquired was meant to help him, but instead, the crease now belongs to him. Is time running out for Blackwood?

Blackwood is an RFA upon the season’s end. With the way Schmid is playing right now, do they send Schmid back to Utica? Schmid has outplayed Blackwood thus far to start the season. It remains to be seen if Blackwood gets tendered or if the Devils trade him to a team needing an upgrade in the crease. Schmid has looked good in his starts and may not be in any rush to bring Blackwood back. All in all, this is an excellent problem to have, whereas last year was a nightmare that never ended.

Bright Days Are Ahead

The 2022-23 New Jersey Devils have instilled optimism across the fan base and the league. This team has finally taken the next steps forward with the youth leading the way. Where goaltending has been the Achilles heel last season, has become the bright spot this season. Last year the team’s save percentage was ranked 31st; however, this season, it is 5th in the league. It is an excellent problem to have, and it will be interesting to see what transpires with the emerging Schmid and a healthy Blackwood.

Main photo:

Embed from Getty Images