The Devils had a tall order ahead of them: the second half of a back-to-back set of games against those offensive powerhouses the Chicago Blackhawks. The coaching staff (knowing that Cory Schneider had started all but one game for the team) was anxious to give the number one goalie a break. They decide to start the young guy who had never had an NHL start, but had come in in relief a handful of times. Keith Kinkaid then did nothing but dazzle.
Facing 39 shots, he made 37 saves, but more importantly, kept the Devils in a game that they had no business being in (though that is not entirely true: the team did play well in front of him, I say they had no business being in the game simply because the team had just flown in from Carolina the night before and were facing a rested Blackhawks team that is one of the top teams in the league). Named the game’s second star, he faced six shots on the Blackhawks two power plays (including a crucial hooking call on Jaromir Jagr in overtime) and nabbed all six of them, as the Devils penalty kill unit continues to roll. He finished with a .949 save percentage and made some solid saves, including stopping Patrick Sharp on a breakaway early in the third (a save similar to one he made against Steven Stamkos in his NHL debut in March of 2013 against Tampa Bay at Prudential Center) and two big saves each on Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane.
But beyond that, he had the building buzzing last Tuesday. Nobody is expecting the youngster to usurp Schneider as the Devils undisputed starter, but he is a reliable backup (much like Scott Clemmensen, who is a solid goalie and has experience, though Kinkaid is a lot younger – a direction the Devils need to go, desperately) who can give Schneider a much needed rest from time to time. You can ride the hot goalie only so long, eventually he is going to get overworked and his play will suffer. Although Cory will still get the bulk of the work, it is good to have a reliable goaltender waiting in the wings.
Should Keith Kinkaid become the Devils default backup, will the Devils deal Clemmensen? Should they move him, what could they get in return? Is there a team that needs a veteran backup such as Scott Clemmensen? These are tough questions to answer, but the Devils are in a good position if they can get, say, a lower draft pick from a team that does need goaltending. As mentioned, Scott Clemmensen is still a good, NHL-caliber goalie who could help a team out. But if Keith Kinkaid is the future, and the Devils do need to pull the trigger on a youth movement, up and down the roster, let him get his chance. The Devils have one of, if not the, oldest rosters in the league and will need to jettison some of the older players for draft picks. Much like the situation with Adam Larsson on defense, the Devils have taken time with their young goaltenders. Playing behind Martin Brodeur and, now, Cory Schneider, two superstar goalies in the NHL for sure is not going to be easy. But tucking their young guys down in Albany without giving them a whole lot of big league experience might end up hurting their game in the long run.
The former Union College Dutchman and Farmingville, New York native, who grew up a fan of Martin Brodeur and the Devils, is unquestionably ready for some experience in the NHL. Now is the time to keep him in New Jersey and give him some playing time. Again, Cory Schneider is going to (and should) get the bulk of playing time; I am not suggesting it be otherwise. He has earned it by paying his dues in Vancouver and dealing with the playing time “controversies” with both Roberto Luongo with the Canucks and Brodeur here in Jersey. He has played his way into the number one position and, if need be, it would be his to lose. But using Kinkaid a little bit more would do wonders for Cory’s workload and would take some of the wear and tear off of him.
Although I do know that goaltenders like Cory Schneider do thrive on pressure and work and that he is settling in as a number one goalie for, really, the first time in his NHL career, but the NHL season is a long one. Overwork can be dangerous for the team. Goalies need a break in their playing time every once in a while. If Keith Kinkaid can keep up his level of play, I see no reason why he cannot be used a little bit more.