After the holiday break I wouldn’t have minded actually watching a Devils game last night, if only cause it was Mackenzie Blackwood’s second-ever NHL start. Can’t say I was really confident before the game though, especially with the news that Taylor Hall reaggravated his lower-body injury and Marcus Johansson wasn’t ready to come off IR yet. I was thinking to myself, ‘really now, we’re throwing the poor kid in there against a great team on the road without two top six forwards’? Not that I didn’t want Blackwood to get a shot, actually I was all for giving him a trial by fire yesterday. He succeeds and maybe we have something here, he fails and maybe he’s not up long enough to damage his confidence.
Well maybe we have something here.
Again Blackwood exceeded expectations with a dominant 40-save first star performance in a rare Devils road win (just the fifth this season), and an unusually easy one at that at 5-2. Could Blackwood possibly have the same type of effect on this year’s team that Jacques Lemaire returning around the holidays in 2010 had on that year’s team, who was also in the wilderness? It’s ridiculously early but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the comparison popped into my head after seeing the boxscore/highlights and reading the reports on Blackwood’s play. Just beating Boston is enough of an achievement to raise an eyebrow, since usually they eat our lunch – especially at TD Garden. I can’t think of another win this decade we’ve had against them in Boston other than the weird 3-1 powerplay aided third period comeback in 2013-14.
Couldn’t watch the game at all, but after seeing the score and the highlights I’m pretty confident I will get to see Blackwood on Saturday. Hopefully the home atmosphere is better than it was for that waste of a game on Sunday, it would be nice having a goalie that can actually stop the puck this year. I’m still not exactly a hundred percent confident Blackwood can keep this up, especially considering it’s not like the team’s played all that much better in his two starts, giving up forty shots a game.
At least last night they scored some goals which has also been a rarity lately. Damon Severson’s goal twenty seconds in set a tone for the night as it worked out. Even the power play scored in the first period when Kyle Palmieri’s booming shot bounced off goalie Jaroslav Halak and then richocheted off his own defensemen back into the net, for the kind of goal we’ve given up far more than we’ve scored this year. But hey, goalscorer’s goal right? That’s the hockey expression and it fits Palm this year, now that he’s started the season with 19 in 35 games as one of our few bright spots to this point.
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, this season’s beyond looking at the standings for the moment and just hoping for contributions from guys you hope will be a part of the present and future going forward. Severson, Palm and Blackwood are some key examples. Things got hairy in the second period when Boston outshot the Devils 19-9 but they were only able to cut the deficit in half, ironically from a great play by ex-Devil John Moore intercepting a clear around the boards and finding a streaking Chris Wagner in front for a bang-bang goal.
This time however, the Devils would not be blowing a two-goal lead, or any third period lead. Blake Coleman set that tone early in the third period with a terrific shot block/breakaway goal combination that restored the two-goal lead. Being uptown at a bar not showing the Devils game (sadface at our irrelevance) I was periodically checking the app for updates but 3-1 was the last I saw until after the game was over. Miles Wood – another of those pieces we’ll need going forward – made a couple of great plays in the third period, one of which led to a Nico Hischier goal after he won a loose puck off the board and shielded Torrey Krug with one hand, while sweeping the puck over to Nico with the other.
Everything else the kid took care of, only allowing a fluke deflection goal in a 6-on-5 situation to make it 4-2 before an empty-netter from Coleman sealed it. It’s a cliche at this point to say a child shall lead them, and that’s overstating it for the moment, but right now the child is giving an organization hope for both the present and the future. Of course the question remains whether he’ll hold up long enough to really make a difference in the 2018-19 season, or whether the team will start playing better and more confidently in him. You can’t underestimate the psychological impact of playing in front of bad goaltending where every mistake winds up in the net. For the first time arguably in two months we finally have a goalie who’s not letting every mistake wind up in the net (and making some of his own besides).
My only moment of suspense for the night was to see what emoji-man Keith Kinkaid would use for Blackwood’s emoji. As usual it was a good choice – a burger (re: Big Mac).