In today’s Goalie News, we’ll look at the Montreal Canadiens’ decision to waive their backup goaltender and a rare shutout performance by another backup in St. Louis.
Canadiens Waive Kinkaid; Call Up Primeau
The Canadiens have been struggling mightily of late, losing eight games in a row. Their goaltending tandem, featuring Carey Price and Keith Kinkaid, has been a major contributor to their woes. And on Monday, the team decided to make a move to do something about it.
According to several reports, the Canadiens informed Kinkaid Monday morning that they would be sending him down to the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League (AHL). In his place, they called up Cayden Primeau, one of the top goaltending prospects in the NHL. Let’s take a look at what this means for each goalie in turn.
Kinkaid has been positively dreadful this season. He’s started just five games, going 1-1-3 in those opportunities. More distressing are his other numbers: he’s posted an .875 save percentage (SV%), a 4.24 goals against average (GAA), and minus-6.53 goals saved above average (GSAA), a number comparing his performance to that of his peers.
The demotion to the AHL is something of a merciful move from Canadiens’ management, who recognize that Kinkaid will never get his form back in his limited minutes in the NHL. While Price has also been in putrid form of late, they cannot afford to give more games to a struggling backup than absolutely necessary. But that reality creates questions for Primeau’s immediate future.
The Canadiens took a chance on Primeau in the seventh round of the 2017 draft after a disappointing season with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. But since then, he has risen like a rocket (if you’ll excuse the pun) playing for Northeastern University and Laval.
The now 20-year-old has played 12 games with Laval this season. He’s collected a .910 SV% and a 2.58 GAA. Those are not elite numbers by any means, but they are plenty good for a 20-year-old goalie in the AHL. In fact, they’re significantly better than the 3.05 GAA and .902 SV% Carter Hart posted with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms prior to his callup last year.
Primeau is one of the best prospects in the Canadiens’ system. They do not want to expose him to the NHL too quickly, but if he’s ready, he’s ready. Moreover, with the team’s poor performance of late, the jobs of both head coach Claude Julien and general manager Marc Bergevin could be on the line.
Perhaps Primeau will get the opportunities Kinkaid did not. If he takes advantage of them, that will create even more questions about Price’s contract and future, but the front office would rather answer those questions than the ones they are fielding right now.
Allen Spotless in Chicago
Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues posted the strongest goaltending performance in the NHL on Monday night, shutting out the rival Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center in the Windy City. Allen stopped all 38 shots aimed his way by the Blackhawks, and, in the process, ended Patrick Kane’s 15-game point streak.
The shutout was the 20th of Allen’s career, which tied him with Jaroslav Halak for second all-time amongst Blues goalies, trailing only Brian Elliott’s 25. After the game, Allen spoke about what the shutout meant to him:
I’m just trying to get better every single time. My starts (early in the year) were few and far between and getting some games in closer consecutive days gets you more in the groove. Just trying to get the boys a chance and guys are playing great hockey in front of me.Jake Allen after his shutout
With the victory, Allen advances to 5-1-2 on the season, and his SV% climbs to .926 percent. His GAA will sink to roughly 2.38. It’s been a strong rebound performance, especially in recent starts, for Allen, who is proving his offseason doubters wrong.
Rittich, Jones Take 2nd and 3rd Star
The NHL has announced its stars of the week, and this week’s slate features not one but two goaltenders. Martin Jones of the San Jose Sharks took 3rd star with his 3-0-0 performance, posting a 1.98 GAA and a .935 SV%.
David Rittich of the Calgary Flames, affectionately known as “Big Save Dave,” took the 2nd star (Nathan MacKinnon took 1st star honors). Rittich helped the Flames recover from an incredibly difficult weak by going 2-0-1 with a 1.94 GAA and a .941 SV%. His performance helped his team climb out of the Pacific Division’s basement. They sit just one point out of a playoff spot at the time of this writing.
Both goaltenders are recovering from rough starts to the season (at one point, Jones was amongst the worst goalies in the league) and their strong numbers of late are making the Pacific Division playoff race an exciting one to be sure.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.