Keith Kinkaid Shines In First NHL Start; Devils Fall To Chicago


It took 29 games for the New Jersey Devils to finally find a worthy backup for goaltender Cory Schneider. For the second straight night, the Devils got outstanding goaltending and tonight it was rookie Keith Kinkaid’s turn. Kinkaid, making his first NHL start, was everything and more going up against one of the toughest teams in the entire league. To face the Blackhawks and make 37 saves in the 3-2 shootout loss is impressive no matter what way you look at it. Why it took so long for Kinkaid to get a start is something you have to ask Peter DeBoer and Lou Lamoriello because I have nothing. He should have made the team out of camp. Unfortunately, the Devils could not hold on to the late lead and spoiled his chance at picking up his first career win.

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That being said, it was one of the best games the Devils played all season. Their energy was fantastic and the “compete level” was top notch. They went toe to toe with one of the best clubs in the NHL, down many key players, playing a rookie goalie making his first start, and walked away with a point. In normal situations, I would be thrilled at the result. On paper, the Devils had no chance to even make this a game and they fought until the very end. However, the way this season has gone with all the blown leads, it’s hard to be happy. The Devils got a well-deserved point, but they should have gotten two.

The Devils got on the board first when Steve Bernier pounced on a turnover in the neutral zone and sprung Jordin Tootoo in down the right wing. Tootoo fired a wrister past Chicago goalie Scott Darling’s blocker and into the twine for a 1-0 lead. It was Tootoo’s second of the year and a goal that would give the Devils a good feeling going into the intermission. New Jersey has had a problem playing solid first periods, but this was one of their best of the season. Then the second period happened.

Dec 9, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Jordin Tootoo (20) and New Jersey Devils right wing Stephen Gionta (11) celebrate Tootoo

In the second period, the Devils were extremely sloppy and the Blackhawks made them pay. The Devils allowed a pair of 3-on-1 breaks and Bryan Bickell was able to convert on one to tie the game. The other was off a turnover from Damon Severson on a 4-on-2 for the Devils so that was concerning. The other part of the period worth noting was a four minute penalty kill where the Devils played their best hockey of the season. Kinkaid was spectacular and Andy Greene was out of this world. Greene played his best game of the season by far. He was everywhere, clearing the crease, diving to break up passes and getting in the way of shots. Andy Greene reminded us all why the Devils rely on him in so many situations.

Dec 9, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils defenseman Andy Greene (6) skates with the puck during the second period of their game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Early in the third period the Devils would regain the lead when Stephen Gionta batted a puck out of mid-air and through a few players into the net. It was a tremendous bit of skill from the fourth line grinder and another unexpected player creating offense. The Devils played a good period for the most part, but Chicago was able to tie the game at two with under four minutes left. Duncan Keith pounced on a rebound and put the puck into a yawning net. Marek Zidlicky was on the ice, wandering around during the goal. No idea why Peter DeBoer has so much confidence in him – especially defending leads.

What hurts a lot is that the Devils had plenty of chance to go up 3-1 before Chicago tied it. Michael Ryder missed the net when he was all alone in front, and I mean all alone, while Martin Havlat rang one off the pipe and crossbar as well. Overtime was another adventure as Jaromir Jagr took a penalty and both Greene and Kinkaid were great again. Then the shootout came and it was just unfair. Havlat and Jagr couldn’t score while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane did what they do best.

It was a terrific effort from the Devils and especially their rookie goaltender Keith Kinkaid, but in the end they lost another point they should have gotten. There are plenty of positives to take away and the Devils need to build on those and find ways to close out contests. If they give the same effort they did tonight, every night, they will win more than they lose.