The New Jersey Devils have been flat out badly lately, there's no denying it. As we've spoken about in many recent articles, due to a combination of injuries and underachievers, the team isn't performing nearly as well as we anticipated. Compounding the problem is how uncharacteristically undisciplined the team has been; the Devils have taken the 6th most minor penalties in the league up until this point, which is extremely alarming when you consider the fact that they are usually a team that takes very few minor penalties in a season. It's hard to win games when you keep giving the opposition power plays where they're controlling the puck and the tempo of the game.
While we are here to talk about trying to win games, we are not here to talk about penalties and skaters. Today I'd like to take a look at one of the recent highlights for the Devils: Keith Kinkaid. Before the season started many fans (myself included) expected Kinkaid to be the backup Cory Schneider with Scott Clemmensen waiting in the AHL for an injury or a goalie tailspin; even Lou Lamoriello himself seemed to have Schneider/Kinkaid penciled in.
As we all know, pencils have erasers, and what we expected quickly turned to Kinkaid starting the season in his familiar Albany stomping grounds. Meanwhile in New Jersey, Schneider would be overworked, starting the first 20 games of the season. Perhaps this was due to his desire to be a true #1; maybe it was due to the ineffective play of Clemmensen, as Game #21 would show. Kinkaid would return to New Jersey on the 9th of this month, and on the same night would finally (after multiple relief appearances) make his first NHL start against the powerhouse that is the Chicago Blackhawks. To say he was excellent would be an understatement; almost single handedly keeping the Devils alive in what would eventually be a shootout loss, Kinkaid showed the New Jersey faithful that he seemingly has what it takes to succeed at the NHL level.
Stats So Far
Most of Keith's tenure with the Devils organization has been spent down in Albany up until this point. Here are the statistics we have on him, courtesy of Elite Prospects:
With each season that he has spent in Albany, Kinkaid has gotten better and better. His GAA and SV% has continually improved each season aside from a slight SV% regression from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014; he did however post his best AHL career statistics so far this season before his call up to the main roster.
Keith got a brief taste of NHL action during the 2012-2013 NHL season, making a relief appearance against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He would be best known for a kick save on a Steven Stamkos breakaway, at least until this season. Getting his first start against the Blackhawks, Kinkaid was stellar to say the least; the defense failed him numerous times, yet he only wound up allowing 2 goals. There were even a couple of 3 on 1 breakaways that Chicago had, and while they scored on one, Kinkaid held his ground on the other. The defense would fail Kinkaid again while playing near his hometown on Long Island; Kinkaid would again allow just two goals again, and both would come with a player wide open for one reason or another.
Kinkaid seems to find strength in his positioning on the ice; his ability to read the play and get himself square to the shots being sent in his direction were in my opinion. The past few seasons, some thought he might be a career AHLer. Opinions certainly can change quickly sometimes.
Whether it's great positioning...
...or a little bit of luck...
...the kid looks like he's going to have a productive future; here's hoping that it's with us.
It's certainly safe to say that Kinkaid has been a bright spot for what has otherwise been a dull team lately. I would like to know how you guys feel about Keith's recent play. Do you have a good feeling about him from his small play sample size? Are the Devils set with their goalie tandem for years to come? Do you have any other thought/input on Kinkaid? Leave any and all comments below and as always, thank you for reading!