For those of us who have spent time working in a commercial kitchen and have had the …err … ‘pleasure’ of working under a head chef, it’s not hard to imagine similar expectations and demands being put on a backup goalie in the NHL.
A head chef swears like a sailor, works like a horse, is sometimes irrational, most times eccentric, and all the time, down-right crazy. Characteristics you would also require to willingly stand in front of a rubber puck coming at you in excess of 100 miles per hour.
To say goalies are a special breed would be an understatement. These players don’t just march to the beat of their own drum, they truly lead the cast. But every cast needs an ensemble and a quality backup goalie can be the key to a team’s success.
Kinkaid In, Lindgren Out
With Antti Niemi’s disappointing season in 2018-19, the Montreal Canadiens were on the hunt for a solid ‘sous-chef’ for Carey Price. There was speculation Charlie Lindgren would be the backup for their veteran doorman but Montreal was looking for proven success and experience, which they sought in Keith Kinkaid.
Kinkaid had a successful 2017-18 season where he played 41 games with the New Jersey Devils and posted a 2.77 goals against average (GAA) and .913 save percentage (SV%). However, the 2018-19 season was a bumpy road for the former Devils goalie with a 3.36 GAA and .891 SV% over 41 games. Though it should be noted, he had a dismal team playing in front of him that finished third-worst in the league. After a quick detour to the Columbus Blue Jackets (he didn’t end up playing a single game), the Canadiens signed this free agent to a one-year contract in the offseason.
The Canadiens will be looking for Kinkaid to play a big role as a solid backup. If he can ensure Price gets more rest than his conference-leading 66 games played in 2018-19, he will have made general manager Marc Bergevin look like a genius. The only other goalie to play more games than Price last season was Devan Dubnyk with 67 games for the Minnesota Wild – another team that missed the playoffs in 2018-19. It’s no secret that any goalie who is expected to play 65-plus games won’t be playing their best hockey in April – yes… even Price.
Unless Price gets injured, Kinkaid won’t be overworked in Montreal but he will be expected to get 20-plus games in and help bring Montreal to the postseason. The Canadiens are scheduled for back-to-back games twice in November, facing both of Kinkaid’s former teams. The first set includes a game against the Devils and later in the month against the Blue Jackets. He will be looking to prove himself with a big win against his former teammates to go along with his first win as a Hab against the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 31.
They will play back-to-back matches three more times leading up to the all-star break before heading into February, their busiest month of the season with 15 games on the schedule. Kinkaid should become a familiar sight between the pipes for Montreal, looking for substantial additions to the win column.
The Team, the Tweets, the Town
It’s been said that not only is goaltending the hardest position in professional sports, but specifically, the goalie for the Canadiens has been cited as the most stressful job in the pros. Expectations run high in Montreal, and if their team isn’t playing well, you can expect to hear heckling and insults in two languages.
The Canadiens are asking their backup to play well after long periods of inactivity, step into action with little or no notice, perform under pressure and win games, all while being the ultimate team player. How does Kinkaid feel about this?
“I know they expect a lot from their team. It’s a hockey town there. I’m very excited for that. I thrive under that type of pressure and excitement.”Keith Kinkaid
So far this season in three starts, the 30-year-old has a 1-1-1 record with a .879 GAA. You can bet he will be looking to improve those numbers, but for now, he has the fans behind him and his lighthearted and fun tweets have become famous in Montreal. This true team player connects the fans with the ‘Kincode’ emoji-filled post-game tweets and the fans love it!
With Cayden Primeau on the horizon for the Canadiens and Kinkaid once again becoming a free agent at the end of the season, the future of the Montreal backup goalie is unknown. But one thing is certain, this Canadiens’ goaltending duo will be cooking up a feast and hoping there’s enough gas on the grill to go deep into the postseason.