The Montreal Canadiens targeted Keith Kinkaid when free agency opened. They expect him to allow Carey Price to rest more than previous years. When will we see Kinkaid suit up this month?
The Montreal Canadiens quickly identified Keith Kinkaid as a player they wanted to sign in the offseason. As soon as the free agent negotiating window opened, there was talk that the Habs were on the phone with Keith Kinkaid and his agent, Allain Roy.
When July 1st finally arrived, the rumours proved to be true as Kinkaid signed a one year contract worth $1.75 million. Obviously Kinkaid was not brought in to steal the starter’s job away from Carey Price. He was signed to play the backup role and give Price frequent breaks throughout the year.
That was a luxury that was not afforded the Habs starting goaltender a year ago. Antti Niemi was the number two man in goal but by the end of the season he could not be counted on to help the team win a game. The Finnish netminder suited up in 17 games for the Canadiens, but allowed three or more goals 14 times. He had four good games and three of them came in a two week stretch around New Year’s.
Niemi’s save percentage was below .900 in 12 of his 17 appearances and as a result he only started three games in the final three months of the season. The Canadiens were in a fierce battle for a playoff spot and Price was asked to carry a Herculean load down the stretch.
Hopefully, with Kinkaid as his backup, Price won’t be asked to shoulder that same burden again. Being a reliable backup goaltender in the NHL means stepping in once every week or two and keeping the goals against to a minimum so your team has a chance to win even though their best goalie is on the bench. Kinkaid has a great track record as a number two option. In 2014-15 Kinkaid became a regular NHLer as he made the New Jersey Devils roster as Cory Schneider’s backup. He posted a 6-5-4 record on a poor Devils team with a 2.59 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
He went 9-9-1 the year after with 2.81 GAA and .905 SV%. Kinkaid followed that up with an 8-13-3 record on the worst team in the league but posted an impressive .916 SV%. The last two seasons he was asked to be the Devils started as Schneider battled injuries and inconsistency. He helped the team make the 2018 postseason and had a 9-5-0 record with a .916 SV% to start last season before the busy schedule of a number one goaltender caught up to him.
If Kinkaid can post a .916 save percentage in about 20 games with the Canadiens like he has three times in his career already, the Habs will be heading down the stretch with a well rested Carey Price. That’s the goal. Have Price start around 55-60 games instead of the 66 he played a year ago. For that to happen, Kinkaid will have to take on about 25 starts. It sounds like a lot for a guy backing up the most expensive goaltender in the league, but over a six and a half month schedule it’s not quite four games each month.
So, what games should we expect to see Kinkaid play this month? Price has started the first two as expected, but if Kinkaid is going to play 25 games, that means he is basically playing every third game. So, when will we see the American make his Canadiens debut? The Habs October schedule looks like this:
Here’s the full Canadiens schedule. pic.twitter.com/97KJvcGU88
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) June 25, 2019
As you can see, the Canadiens have a back to back coming up this week. They take on the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo on Wednesday and then host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. Normally, I’d suggest that the first game would go to Price since the Sabres have a few more offensive weapons and are just a better team than Detroit.
However, the Detroit game is the Canadiens home opener and Price will likely get the start in the team’s first home game of the season. That means Kinkaid should make his Canadiens debut in Buffalo on Wednesday night.
After that, Price will probably play the four straight home games since none are on consecutive nights and there are two days off before the Tampa Bay game. Then, Kinkaid should get the start against the St. Louis Blues on the afternoon of Saturday the 19th. Sure, they are the Stanley Cup champions and they won’t face a ton of backups this year, but they are a western conference team, and it gives Price two games against the Minnesota Wild which are very winnable games sandwiched around the Blues game.
After that back to back on the 19th and 20th, the Habs have three days off before hosting the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday. Price will definitely get those games but then they close out the month with consecutive games against the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights on the road.
Since there are three days off leading up to the back to back, Price will likely start the first on against Arizona and then Kinkaid will get the Golden Knights on Halloween.
That is just three starts in the month for Kinkaid, but the Habs schedule is not very hectic in October. He will have busier months in the future when the Habs travel to the west coast in December and March. Kinkaid will also be busy when the Canadiens play ten games in the first 18 days of January and nine games in the first 15 days of February.
For now, we will likely see Kinkaid sparingly, perhaps only when the team has games on back to back nights. Even if that is the only time Kinkaid is used, it would give Price more of a break than he got in February and March last season.