Last season, 23-year-old Mackenzie Blackwood manned the net for 47 of the New Jersey Devils’ games, winning 22 with a goals against of 2.77. The other three goalies combined posted a goals against of over 3.50. The addition of 36-year-old Corey Crawford appeared to have solidified the position. However, that is now up in the air after Crawford took an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.
Corey Crawford, who played his entire 13-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks, took part in the first two days of camp, but then took a maintenance day. He hasn’t practiced since, citing personal reasons. Coach Lindy Ruff doesn’t know anything more at the moment and found out after other players were wondering about Crawford’s absence.
The set of circumstances behind Corey Crawford’s absence and his future have been talked about by teammates. Mackenzie Blackwood, and forward Travis Zajac, in particular have commented about how supportive they are of him, want him there, but to take all the time that he needs. Crawford has an impressive resume, which included two Stanley Cup championships, 260 wins and a 2.45 goals-against-average. He was signed to a two-year contract on October 9 after waiving Cory Schneider.
Corey Crawford hasn’t played in more than 40 games in each of the last two seasons because of concussions and one must wonder if lingering issues from the concussions are the reason Crawford is taking time away. However, since Crawford said it’s a personal issue, it’s more likely that it’s not health related. Ruff indicated that Blackwood, Crawford and Scott Wedgewood are the top three on goalie depth chart, meaning Wedgewood must step up in Crawford’s absence. Wedgewood went 7-10-5 with a 3.05 goals-against-average in 24 games with the Devils in 2015-2016 and the Arizona Coyotes in 2017-2018.
There is a chance that the New Jersey Devils will look for more experience to back up Blackwood until Crawford’s return. Crawford still showed he was very capable in net last year, saving nearly 92 percent of shot attempts with a 2.77 goals against average.