MacKenzie Blackwood
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New Jersey Devils fans should be more than excited for their future NHL All-Star in net with MacKenzie Blackwood.

It’s not for certain if the New Jersey Devils will have another effort like Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Earning back-to-back wins is a rare commodity for the Devils this season, but there’s one comforting thing about New Jersey’s recent success.

Believe it or not—it stands tall between the pipes. Goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood is the real deal for New Jersey and offers the same cornerstone value that forward Nico Hischier provides.

Blackwood, 23, continues to excel in the blue paint for the Devils while proving he’s “the guy” for the long run in the Garden State. New Jersey thought it acquired its franchise goaltender with Cory Schneider back in 2012-13, but unfortunately, that concept diminished sooner than expected.

There are times when it seems that all hope is lost for an organization that once produced a handful of Hockey Hall of Famers and found itself playing into early June season after season. Still, there’s a bright light and restored hope when you think about how good No. 29 is for the red and black.

His side-to-side movement is elite and pressure doesn’t seem to phase the 6-foot-4 netminder. While Devils fans were spoiled with former goaltender Martin Brodeur for over two decades, there’s a new gem in the blue paint at the Prudential Center with Blackwood.

In the modern era for hockey, a goaltender of his size and athletic ability is ideal. Just think of the film, “Jerry Maguire” when the Arizona Cardinals general manager expresses that he would like a “prototypical wide receiver” that’s over 6-foot and not the smaller Rod Tidwell.

New Jersey has its prototypical all-star caliber goaltender and should feel confident moving forward with the masked man.

Get used to seeing him blank the Flyers in the City of Brotherly Love while a rival goaltender in Carter Hart watches across the ice. Two years from now, the hockey community will be talking about how Blackwood is the better goaltender of the two.

Compared to Hart, Blackwood shoulders a heavier load on a nightly basis. New Jersey’s depth and play in front of Blackwood is much weaker than Philadelphia’s.

The young goaltender has recorded over 200 more saves in just six (38) more games played than Hart (32) on the season. Through the 38 contests, Blackwood has faced 1125 shots while Hart has experienced 781.

New Jersey is also ranked 23rd in the NHL for goals-for, per game played (2.70), which doesn’t offer the best support for a young goaltender.

The exposures and New Jersey’s overall struggles this season won’t negatively affect Blackwood moving forward with this development. These types of experiences can help produce a strong-minded goaltender and one who is better prepared to reach superstardom when he’s given a competent group in front.

Just look back at goaltenders such as Marc-Andre Fleury when he first started off with Pittsburgh in the early 2000s. Now, these struggles can’t last too much longer, but expect Blackwood to be a top-five NHL goaltender sooner rather than later.

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.