There are a few ways to demoralize an entire organization, but none are more effective than putting AHL-calibre goaltending behind an NHL roster.
The New Jersey Devils are living that nightmare through the first month of the season. The Devils – an interesting upstart team with plenty of firepower sprinkled throughout the lineup – made a big bet on the Cory Schneider and Mackenzie Blackwood combination for the 2019-20 season.
Schneider, whose contract extension kicked in to start the 2015-16 season, has struggled to live up to his $42-million contract. He’s frequently battled injuries, and when he has been healthy enough to stay on the ice, the performance simply hasn’t been there. There were some signs of promise from his play post-abdominal strain last season, but his play has vacillated from bad to awful in his first five appearances this season.
New Jersey’s other platoon goalie, Blackwood, looked to be a promising prospect working his way through the organization. The 22-year-old had a .918 save percentage with six goals saved above average in 23 appearances last year. As a second-round pick, his first NHL season looked to be an extension of what the team saw during his Barrie Colts days. If Schneider went by the wayside, it appeared Blackwood would be able to pick up even more of the slack.
But Blackwood has struggled in his sophomore season, and it’s killing New Jersey. The Devils’ platoon is stopping just 87.2 per cent of shots at 5-on-5 and 86.3 per cent of shots across all situations – both are comfortably dead last in the NHL.