The Chicago Blackhawks will not be facing a World Cup of Hockey-quality goaltender tonight, as they probably believed
There has been one constant over the past few seasons for the New Jersey Devils, and that’s goaltender Cory Schneider. The Chicago Blackhawks likely thought they’d see the World Cup of Hockey netminder tonight in New Jersey.
And they still can … if they look at the Devils’ bench. But they won’t find the owner of a .925 career save percentage in the nets tonight. Instead, it will be backup Keith Kinkaid.
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The Devils are starting the first half of their first back-to-back this season with the Blackhawks tonight. They host the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow, and Schneider projects to start that game. Schneider has received all six of the team’s starts so far, going 3-2-1 in the process.
Kinkaid actually managed to get 20 starts last season in place of the workhorse Schneider. He posted a 9-9-1 record with a .904/2.81 statline. While the Devils weren’t particularly amazing in front of either goalie last season, those numbers are a far cry from what Schneider posted (27-25-6, .924/2.15).
Why are the Devils rolling with Kinkaid tonight?
There’s no explicit reason out there laying out why Devils coach John Hynes decided to go with Kinkaid tonight and Schneider against Tampa Bay.
The Blackhawks have seen more of Schneider than Kinkaid, as Schneider his early NHL seasons in Vancouver. You might remember him as the guy who supplanted Roberto Luongo in the 2011 postseason and was subsequently split in two by Michael Frolik on a penalty shot.
Kinkaid has seen the Blackhawks one time in his career, posting a shootout loss but performing well. He finished with a 37-for-39 save mark, with both of his goals allowed coming at even strength.
New Jersey obviously isn’t terribly concerned about the Blackhawks’ offensive abilities. Chicago has scored two or more goals in all seven of its games and has gotten points from a variety of sources.
The Lightning have been shut out once already, but they’ve also tallied four or more goals in four different games this season. So you can probably see the logic here.
Still, the Blackhawks can use this decision as motivation — that they’re being taken lightly compared to other teams. Hopefully that would push the Blackhawks to put up a better performance against Kinkaid than they did the previous time out.
How do the Blackhawks exploit Kinkaid?
Kinkaid is a tall goaltender, standing 6-foot-3. You would think this means he’s more successful at covering the high portions of the net. But according to the graphic on this page (titled “Hit the tape”), that’s not really the case.
The post containing this graphic is a bit out of date (the post is from Jan. 4, 2016), but it still holds suggestions for how to attack Kinkaid, since it’s unlikely he’s completely resolved these coverage issues since January.
This graphic shows the position of 57 goals allowed by Kinkaid up to this point. Twenty of them went over one of his shoulders — 11 over the right shoulder, and nine over the left. This would suggest Kinkaid has a tendency to go down early.
The graphic also shows six goals permitted under each of his arms. Kinkaid is generally much more solid the lower the shot, with only three five-hole goals at the time this graphic was created.
Kinkaid will come out and challenge shooters, which means he’s susceptible to being taken out of position. This is something the Blackhawks’ speedier forwards can take advantage of, with one charging toward the net and the other flying from behind to either take a pass or feed on a rebound.
Overall, Kinkaid has more weaknesses than Schneider. However, Chicago occasionally struggles against goaltenders it hasn’t seen much of, so it’s going to want to jump all over Kinkaid early and often. This is a good opportunity for a win with the circus trip a couple weeks out.