Samantha Impaglia The Hockey Writers
Devils Goalies Are Helping to Secure Important Wins
The New Jersey Devils net has seen quite a bit of change between the pipes since the start of the 2020-21 shortened season. We thought young star Mackenzie Blackwood would be sharing his time as a starter with two-time Stanley Cup Champion Corey Crawford, but Crawford’s retirement shut that down even before the season began. The team had some decisions to make and ended up bringing in goalies like Aaron Dell for decent backup options. Since then, not only has Blackwood stayed strong in net, but 28-year-old Scott Wedgewood has also proven his spot with a string of great games. We’ll take a look at each of New Jersey’s netminders and how they have contributed to the team.
Wedgewood Steps Up
- 10 games played, 3-4-3 record
- 2.59 goals-against average (GAA)
- .918 save percentage (SV%)
Wedgewood has really been making his mark lately for this team. He is no stranger to New Jersey having started his career in their AHL system before moving onto multiple AHL teams and the Arizona Coyotes before being signed to a one-year contract in October to come back to his former team. More recently, he stepped in for an injured Blackwood after warmups and put up a 42-save win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 18, another showing that he is able to fill in with ease, but let’s take it back to some of his other games before that.
Although he’s only played 34 career games in the league, four of those are shutouts, and two came in the 10 games he has played this season. Not only is it the first time he’s recorded multiple shutouts in one season, four shutouts in less than 50 games is a milestone that only four other NHL goalies have accomplished.
His record may not accurately depict it, but his stats do, and despite a shaky start, Wedgewood has been delivering when needed and secured some important wins for the Devils. January was not the best, with only one win in five starts. After dropping 4-1 to the New York Islanders on Jan. 21, he put up a 28-save shutout for his first win of the year. The Devils also lost both matches of their two-game homestand against the Philadelphia Flyers, and a shootout with the Buffalo Sabres. Wedgewood was allowing 3-4 goals a game — too much for New Jersey’s offense to keep up with — but still playing okay.
March has proved to be much better for him, although the Devils did not look the best after coming off a COVID-19 break. So far in March they are 4-6-2, but in the games Wedgewood has played, he is 2-1-2. He’s been allowing fewer goals, and his SV% this month (.924) is much improved from January’s .896 SV%. He started the month with his second shutout, a 40-save win against the Boston Bruins, before dropping one each to the Washington Capitals and Islanders in overtime.
His best in March was that fill-in against Pittsburgh, where he really stepped up as that was a big win. In his most recent start, the team lost to the Penguins 3-1, but since then they brought it back and won against them on the road. He might not be a starter, but Wedgewood is for sure an excellent backup to Blackwood and has been a huge contributor to some of the Devils important wins this season. He’s done more help than anything.
Blackwood Struggles a Bit but Still Impresses
- 16 games played, 7-8-1 record
- 2.91 GAA
- .908 SV%
Before having to take time off due to COVID-19 protocol, the Devils starter was 2-0-1 to start the season. In those three games, Blackwood put up a .950 SV% and a 50-save win against cross-river rivals, the New York Rangers on Jan. 19. They split their series against the Bruins, with Blackwood having 28 saves in a 2-1 win on Jan. 16 after unfortunately falling in a shootout two days before that. He had a quality start that looked promising for the team.
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Obviously this took a toll on the entire team, and Blackwood came back after almost a month off from COVID-19 to put up a 3-4 record in February. He started the first two of the month against the Rangers and Bruins strong to continue to a four-game win streak, and after that he only won one more until March. After two losses and a 32-save, 4-3 win against Buffalo, Blackwood collected a loss in his next six starts. The team itself was having a tough time winning after some time off, plummeting their record a bit and leaving their goalies trying to find a way to squeeze a win.
Blackwood was able to break that streak on March 16 by staying strong in net and beating Buffalo 3-2, a 35-save win. He was able to reassure the team that they can secure wins. He went on to also overcome Pittsburgh on March 21, his most recent win in which he only allowed one goal. Now on a two-game win streak, Blackwood has the confidence he needs to improve New Jersey’s record. He put up a .898 SV% in February and a .868 in March so far, so there is a little bit to improve, but he is looking pretty solid for the most part.
Half the Season Is Played, Still More Time to Improve
The third goalie that’s played for the Devils this year is Aaron Dell, who played three games, two of which he started for a 3.72 GAA and .877 SV%. He’s a good contender for backup when needed. The goaltending situation has gone through a bunch since it all changed before the season started, but the organization has adapted well. Wedgewood has been a big help in keeping up with some of the Devil’s toughest opponents, something to take a burden off Blackwood’s shoulders when needed. Having two solid options will be key in New Jersey pushing into the second half of the shortened season and looking at the postseason; how they play now will be key if they want to think about playoffs.
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