It doesn’t matter who the doomed Devils start in net vs. Lightning

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 14: J.T. Miller
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 14: J.T. Miller /

The New Jersey Devils are turning to goaltender Cory Schneider to save the day in their first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The question is, does it matter at this point?

The New Jersey Devils have looked lost so far in these playoffs. Feckless, really. Or perhaps “outmatched” would make for a stronger and more meaningful term.

It shouldn’t be a huge shock to anyone who’s kept up with the Tampa Bay Lightning all year, though. They’ve put many teams in a daze for three periods.

Take for example the following goal by Brayden Point:

Yet, no matter which team you’re up against, those miscues cannot happen. Not now, when you’re vying for a Cup. Not when you’re up against a mammoth club that regularly pots close to four a game as it is. So, let’s take a breath and pump the brakes on labeling starting goaltender Keith Kinkaid a scapegoat for this series.

He hasn’t been good. We won’t lie about it. That’s some hard truth serum every Devils fan has already been administered through two games. In fact, Kinkaid has been abysmal. His .667 save percentage in Game 2 is eye watering. So it’s no surprise that for Game 3 on Monday night, the Devils are looking to Cory Schneider to get them back in this series. But let’s stop again and take a look at two plays:

It’s too late for New Jersey. We’re sorry. Kinkaid has been atrocious, but the New Jersey defense has been as bad if not worse. Sending Schneider out there for heroics (he of the 2.93 goals against average in 40 games) screams David vs. Goliath. But all the Devils are doing at this point is sending David out there without a slingshot.

Even if by an act of God Schneider stuns and comes up with a series-saver at home, asking either netminder to make miraculous save play after play after play is not going to cut it, and neither man is built for that. Absolutely not against the deadliest team the NHL has to offer. The playoffs are almost always won with great goaltending. We know it. Fans get that as well. But games are also won when you don’t let players skate around unhinged to grab loose pucks or passes for wide open shots. That’s been the name of this game so far for New Jersey.

The Devils are turning to Schneider to save the day, but it’s over already. If they expected to play so poorly but win with incredible netminding, then it was probably over before it even started. Blame Kinkaid all you want, but if the New Jersey defense doesn’t bow up soon, Tampa Bay is going to exorcise this club completely.

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