Ask any Montreal Canadiens fan what went wrong last year and they’ll give you two answers: the power play was bad, and the backup goalie didn’t carry his share of the load. While the power play is still a work in progress, Marc Bergevin made the most of free agency to address the issue behind Carey Price.
The general manager could have let his stable of young AHL netminders battle for the spot, but he opted for Keith Kinkaid to bring a veteran mindset to the position.
Through Kinkaid’s two pre-season starts, it looks very much like the right choice. While Cayden Primeau and Lindgren showed great flashes, starting limited games behind Price is not the best possible move for their development or perhaps the team’s fortunes, and it’s why Kinkaid is looking to be worth the investment.
A 27-save shutout over the Ottawa Senators was a fantastic start for the veteran goalie, but against a lowly Senators team it was expected he would perform at least decently. His latest game against the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t need such a qualifier, as he was about the only Montreal player to show up for a full 60 minutes.
He faced down 49 shots, stopping 46 of them against Toronto’s opening-night roster, and he did so in impressive fashion. After a scrambly few minutes when the Leafs were all around the crease, there was little jittery, scrambly mess between the pipes like we saw with Antti Niemi. Later in the game, even against a heavy onslaught, there was calm, cool, and yet assertive goaltending to keep the Canadiens in the game longer than they should have been.
Loss or not, the Canadiens got a performance that they had rarely seen from their backup in the latter half of last season, and that should give them some peace of mind heading into the new year.
It’s not that Kinkaid is going to split the load with Price, but the games he does start will present a good chance to come away with the win. He isn’t going to post gaudy numbers like he has in the pre-season, but looking at his quality of play there’s a lot to like about his game.
He’s seized the backup spot firmly after there was some debate over his effective based on his performance a season ago. Now let’s just hope the team in front of Kinkaid can repay him with some goal support during the regular season.