John Hynes is not about to sit on his hands.
The Devils coach knows he needs to do something or the club’s first time back in the playoffs in the past six years is going to be a short one. So Hynes is trying to halt the losses to the Lightning with a few unnamed changes coming for Game 3 on Monday night in Newark.
“We’ll have some lineup changes,” Hynes said on a conference call Sunday. “There are some players that haven’t performed well enough to warrant them staying in.”
That could very well include the goalie, with Long Island’s Keith Kinkaid having struggled in the first two games that ended in losses of 5-2 and 5-3. Hynes pulled Kinkaid near the end of Game 2 on Saturday in Tampa after he allowed all five goals on 15 shots and brought in veteran Cory Schneider, who stopped all 10 shots he faced. Schneider, the former All-Star, had his starting job taken from him after a midseason injury sidelined him and Kinkaid excelled. Schneider has not won a game since Dec. 27.
“I have made a decision for the starting goaltender on Monday, but have not spoken to the goalies,” Hynes said. “We will stick to the regular-season routine of announcing the start on game day.”
The changes could also include third-round pick Joey Anderson joining the lineup after the standout forward from Minnesota-Duluth signed his entry-level deal Sunday following his team’s NCAA championship. The 19-year-old will skate with the club Monday, and would surely be a wake-up call to the players if the captain of Team USA from the World Juniors tournament in January went right into the lineup.
“You look at his high character and professionalism and his discipline,” assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald told the Devils website. “Everyone wants to be the guy who comes down the boards and just rifles a shot top shelf or makes a nice little play in the corner, but it takes a certain kind of player to get to the net and he’s got an undeniable will to do that. It’s unconditional and he’s a self-starter. He doesn’t need anyone to get him going. He just goes.”
The Devils need quite a lot to hang with the top-seeded Lightning. Tampa Bay’s dynamic offense has overwhelmed the young defensive corps, and for a franchise that used to be predicated on limiting opportunities, they have given up far too many.
“We can’t give Tampa free offense,” Hynes said. “Our penalty discipline has to be better. Our special teams needs to take it up a notch.”
There has been impressive poise from rookies Nico Hischier and Will Butcher, as well as the same high-end performance from likely Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall, finally getting his first chance at the postseason after so many fruitless seasons in Edmonton.
But the Devils have been generally outclassed in the first two games, and changes are needed if they want to claw their way back.
“We’ve shown that we can play with them and play the way we want to,” Hall said. “They are a great team and have a lot of great players. They are a threat, but hopefully on home ice we can dictate play for a full 60.”