Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: A Review of Keith Kinkaid’s Season, Failed Experiment, Video Analysis of Final Game, Fresh Start
ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Canadiens decision to sign Keith Kinkaid to one-year contract worth $1.75-million on July 1st, 2019, was seen as a positive by a portion of hockey analysts, and fan base. The expectations were that he would be an upgrade to Antti Niemi as backup to Carey Price.
The signing caused a domino effect in goal throughout the organization. I don’t think that Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven were doing the happy dance when hearing the news that the Canadiens signed the goalie. Both prospects were impacted for different reasons.
The writing was on the wall that Kinkaid would begin the year in Montreal, and that Lindgren would have to be patient in Laval. It was a frustrating situation for Lindgren, which he handled like a professional, and didn’t allow it to negatively affect his performances.
When Cayden Primeau signed a professional tryout contract in April 2019 after completing his season in the NCAA, it was evident that he had a spot reserved in Laval for the 2019-20 season.
As a result, McNiven spent most of the season in the ECHL, despite having a good 2018-19 season with the Rocket. In 30 games, he had 11 wins with a 2.52 goals against average and .902 save percentage.
The experiment lasted six starts in Montreal, as Kinkaid was assigned to Laval on December 3rd after clearing waivers. To read more about his tenure with the Habs, click here.
The announced purpose of his assignment to the Rocket was to play more games and to regain confidence. He did obtain more ice time, however the results were identical, if not worse to his work at the NHL level. In 13 games with Laval, Kinkaid recorded three wins with a 3.44 goals against average and .876 save percentage.
When he signed a contract with the organization, Kinkaid wasn’t expecting to be sent to the AHL. I can certainly understand that he would be bitter about it, but he wasn’t getting the job done in Montreal.
It was clear that the veteran goalie didn’t accept his demotion positively. It was evident from his performances and body language. Typically, Kinkaid has been active on social media during the season, tweeting emojis after his team’s wins. However, his account was silent during his tenure with the Rocket.
If it wasn’t already obvious, it became crystal clear on February 3rd that Kinkaid’s days with the organization were numbered. On that day, Primeau was recalled by Montreal to backup Lindgren, when Price wasn’t able to travel to New Jersey due to the flu.
The following morning after practice, Kinkaid had a heated discussion on the ice with Joel Bouchard that lasted over 30 minutes. I think it’s safe to say that the veteran would have loved to get back in the NHL and to play against his former team.
Kinkaid got two more starts with the Rocket before being loaned to the Checkers on February 29th. Charlotte needed help in goal after the Carolina Hurricanes recalled both of their AHL goalies.
Kinkaid’s last game in a Rocket uniform was on February 19th against the Manitoba Moose at Place Bell. Headed into the game, Laval had only won once in their last 10 matches. It was after this night, that the team decided that McNiven would be Primeau’s backup and that Kinkaid was no longer in their plans. So let’s have a closer look at the goalie’s performance that led to that decision.
The Moose got on the board during the fifth minute of the play with their first shot on goal. An odd man rush was created after Laurent Dauphin wasn’t able to get possession in the neutral zone. Emile Poirier passed the puck to Michael Spacek who skated into Laval zone for a two-on-one, and a pass to Seth Griffith for the score. On the play, Kinkaid committed to the shooter too early and as a result had no chance to make the stop when the pass was made.
The Moose got back on the board 1:45 later on their third shot on goal. Kristian Vesalainen took a shot from the slot that was stopped by Kinkaid. The goalie lost track of the puck’s location and David Gustafsson took advantage to put in the rebound.
After allowing two goals on three shots, the fans at Place Bell gave Kinkaid the bronx cheer when he made routine saves. Kinkaid’s best save of the period came when he stopped Johnathan Kovacevic’s point shot through traffic.
Early in the second period, Kinkaid came out of his net to prevent the puck to go behind the net following the Moose’s clear in. This play allowed Nathanel Halbert to pass the puck to Dauphin and out of the defensive zone.
A few minutes later, Kinkaid came out of his net again to stop the clear in attempt. This time, he did the dirty work himself to clear the puck out of his team’s zone.
Kinkaid came up with two key saves mid-way through the period. Poirier’s shot from the faceoff circle was stopped and Kinkaid made a right pad save on the rebound from Spacek.
Laval got back into the game by scoring three unanswered goals. Cale Fleury, Yannick Veilleux, and Jake Evans scored in a span of 5:52 to give the Rocket a 3-2 lead.
In the final moments of the second period, C.J. Suess took a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that was stopped. Kinkaid thought that he had control of the puck, while the rebound was picked up by Matthew Peca. Laval fortunate that there was no Manitoba player to capitalize on the opportunity.
The Moose tied the score at three midway through the third period. The sequence started as Vesalainen went around Fleury to pass the puck to JC Lipon. Lipon setup Leon Gawanke for a one-timer that beat the goaltender. Gawanke’s shot found the small hole that Kinkaid left uncovered top corner on the blocker side.
Charles Hudon gave his team their second lead of the night by scoring his 25th goal of the season. The Moose tied the score with 1:18 remaining in regulation. Schilling’s shot from the top of the faceoff circle was stopped with the right pad, and Spacek had a wide open net to put the puck in and send the teams into overtime.
Shootout was required as the overtime wasn’t sufficient to determine a winner. Griffith was the only successful player while beating Kinkaid with a forehand deke to give the win to the Moose.
“He started a little off obviously, but he stayed in the game, he battled and he’s a guy that cares, he wants to do well,” said Bouchard.
“It’s tough for him right now. It’s not the season he wanted,” added the coach. Kinkaid watched the next four games from the press box. Whether the decision was mutual or from one of the sides, it was evident that Kinkaid wouldn’t get another opportunity to play with the organization.
Perhaps a fresh start with a new team gave the veteran confidence. In four games with the Checkers, Kinkaid allowed a total of nine goals. He recorded two wins with a 2.24 goals against average and .924 save percentage.
By Chris G., Senior Writer.
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