Against the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, against the odds, New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid gave his team a game they needed.
- New Jersey Devils (14-15-7, 35 pts)
- Washington Capitals (20-9-5, 45 pts)
- NHL, Saturday, Dec. 31, 1 p.m. ET, MSG+
- Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
In the Devils 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals, Kinkaid stopped 43 shots in the 65 minutes of play and then stopped both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the shootout. Kinkaid almost made several big saves against Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, Daniel Winnik, and Alex Ovechkin. Some of the saves were even Brodeur-esque, with Kinkaid sliding all over the ice, getting just enough of the puck to make the save.
Throughout the season, the Devils goal support and their defense for their goaltenders have been dismal. Their goal differential is -24 which is worst in the Eastern Conference. Only Arizona and Colorado have worse numbers. Number one goaltender Cory Schneider has been struggling to find his game and Kinkaid stepped up when he was given the nod in between the pipes.
A win like this could push a team in the right direction.
A win without their best offensive player, Taylor Hall, gets them thinking. A 40-plus save performance against a team with offensive talent up the wazoo, that can build confidence. The win is also a rare road win for the Devils, only their fifth on the season, their fourth with Kinkaid in net. This win also might get Kinkaid another start against these same Capitals on New Year’s Eve.
In 2011, the Devils founds themselves 10-29-2 heading into a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils won the game six to three. What makes that game and the one against the Capitals similar? The Devils came back to win the game in the third period. They got a big performance, just like they got from Keith Kinkaid.
The Devils went on to finish the month of January going 5-1-1. They had a near perfect February going 11-1-1. They then started the month of March 6-1, finally getting their record back above the .500 mark. The point being: all it takes is one game to restore a team’s confidence and send them in the right direction.
Ironically, that season was the year the Devils signed Kinkaid to a two-year entry level contract.
While each year is different, the 2-1 shootout win over the Capitals was just what the Devils needed to try and turn their season around. Building confidence, as well as facing a familiar opponent, could work to their advantage. It didn’t work against the Penguins because the Devils lost both games.
A final point to make is that the Devils won a low scoring game. Kinkaid stole the game for them, something Schneider has not been able to do this season. The Devils are in these types of game a lot. Despite adding offensive weapons over the past few off seasons, it still does not seem to click for them.
Perhaps this performance inspires the Devils. Perhaps it doesn’t. If Kinkaid starts against the Caps again, and wins, does he start the first game of the new year?