Keith Kinkaid’s confidence is at an all-time high right now and so is his team’s confidence in him. It’s evident every time the New Jersey Devils step on the ice with him as the starter and together over the past eight days they’ve beaten the Edmonton Oilers, the Washington Capitals, and the San Jose Sharks – three of the most high-powered teams in the NHL.
“Obviously it’s as high as it can get,” Kinkaid said of his confidence level following the first week of the Devils’ season. “Going back to last season it’s been a fun ride and I’ll (continue to) help this team until whatever happens when Cory comes back. I just want to help right the ship and do my job.”
For those out there that thought Kinkaid’s performance in goal for New Jersey last season was a fluke, he’s quickly disproving that notion. Kinkaid has lead the Devils to an impressive 3-0-0 record to start the new season and the question is now shifting more towards is he the 1A or the 1B in the crease once Cory Schneider returns from his off-season surgery.
Kinkaid Confident in the Cage
Last April after carrying the Devils to their first playoff appearance in six seasons, Kinkaid was humbled in his two post-season starts on the road against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning and Schneider played the remaining three games. But the netminder who loves to post emoji-filled game recaps of his team’s wins on Twitter was able to get back into a good groove when he represented Team USA at the World Championships, helping them to a bronze medal. He finished 7-2 at the tournament, including two wins over Team Canada, and that win total is tied for the most by a U.S. player at that tournament.
Goodbye 🦈 doo doo doo doo doo doo. #njdevils w/ a gutsy W! 🌴 staying 🔥 w/ 2 more 🚨. 👨🏼🎨 w/ a huge GWG! PK was 🔥🔥. 2 🍎 from 🏨. Also adding 1🍎 were ⛳️, 🐴, 🤠& 🇫🇮! We’re going streaking !
— Keith Kinkaid (@Blockaid1) October 14, 2018
“It’s nice to be able to see him do that (start the season strong); to be very honest it’s not something that we’re surprised by,” Devils coach John Hynes said of Kinkaid following a 6-0 shutout over the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals. “He’s come into camp in good shape, he has a lot of confidence. I think last year did some great things for him. He learned a lot – what it means to be a starter and how to handle himself, how to handle himself on off days to make sure that he’s ready, what the mental grind is.”
“Then he goes over to the World Championships and wins a bronze medal. He’s come back and you can just tell that he feels like it’s his net. That’s good to see,” Hynes boasted like a proud papa after Kinkaid’s fifth career shutout. “What we’d like to see now is to continue it; let’s just keep laying the bricks and showing up every day, and doing the right things.”
Total Team Effort
In their most recent game (against San Jose) for the first and second times all season the Devils trailed in a game, but each time they rallied to tie the game in five minutes or less. Early in the third period, they turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead with two quick strikes in just under three minutes. At the other end, their goaltender stopped all ten shots by the Sharks in the period finishing with 37 saves in the triumph.
“The whole team was out there blocking shots, doing the right things, and our PK was huge; obviously our kill on the 6-on-4 (over the final 1:50) was tremendous,” said Kinkaid praising his teammates. “Everybody was sacrificing their bodies. We know the Sharks are a ‘shot mentality’ team, they throw everything to the net and I thought we did a good job systematically. I just had to make the saves.”
With three wins in three games, the 29-year-old goalie has been tremendous himself, stopping 75 of the 79 shots he’s faced this season – giving him a .949 save percentage to go along with a microscopic 1.33 goals-against average. His last regular season regulation loss came on March 18th in Anaheim, a span of 11 starts in which the Devils are 10-0-1, and they are now winners in his last seven starts.
“Keith’s played great. He’s made some big saves, timely saves for us and kept us in games or gave us momentum when maybe things were getting a little sloppy in our own end,” said Kyle Palmieri who has been equally important to New Jersey with a pair of goals in each game this season. “He’s done more than you can ask of a starting goalie and hopefully he just continues to make those saves. Hopefully, we also tighten some things up and make it a little easier on him.”
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.