After the first five games of the season, I talked about how we should still be optimistic about this team. The Kraken are now thirteen games into the season with a 4-8-1 record and sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division. They also have one of the worst power plays in the league and handed the only winless team left in the NHL their first win of the season in the last game. They had a chance to turn things around in a rematch with the Vegas Golden Knights, but it all fell apart on them.
It’s starting to feel a bit doom and gloom over here, and it has nothing to do with the Pacific Northwest’s constant rain or the fact that daylight savings ended and the sun sets by 5 pm now. No, it’s because the Kraken seem to be turning losing into a habit. Even Captain Mark Giordano hints that team vibes aren’t that great right now.
I have certain friends that I like to chat through games with, and right after the Golden Knights scored 30 seconds into the third period to make it 3-2, I said to them “I’m torn between pessimism and optimism.” On the one hand, this was all starting to feel way too familiar. A lead completely blown, and a third period played without any gas left in the tank. On the other, I’m not ready to resign myself into giving up any ability to put hope into this team. Now, once Vegas scored on the power play to make it 4-2, I confessed that “now I’m full pessimism” about the game’s outcome, but I’m not there yet about the Kraken as a whole.
There’s lots to talk about with what’s going wrong, but I don’t want to lose sight of things going right or any other individual positives to the performance. Maybe it’s just a me thing, but I still want find enjoyment out of this hockey team.
I know you get déjà vu
The issue of parking the bus when the Kraken have the lead is definitely not a new talking point. However, the Kraken are reaching a point where they feel fully allergic to the concept of having a lead at all. In a moment of déjà vu from the Arizona game, the Kraken once again scored just to let the opponent score back immediately. Yet, instead of going from a tied game to losing, the Kraken gained the lead, lost it, and then after intermission, let Vegas score two more times within less than two minutes.
To do this against Arizona was definitely more embarrassing, but this version of events against the Golden Knights was more frustrating. Did the Kraken learn nothing? Was there any course correction actually being done?
This wasn’t the only part of the game where I felt like I was watching old events play out again - but this next one has a twist. A period where one team doesn’t get off a single shot on goal, where the Kraken have 75% of all shot attempts and 75.58% shot quality, until the one they fire off turns out to be a goal. No, this isn’t the Kraken’s empty netter from the game against the Predators. This is the Golden Knights in the second period against the Kraken. One shot, one goal.
You’ll hear people talk about how a team needs to put together “a full 60-minutes.” This cliché is a tad misleading, because in the vast majority of games, no one team is going to dominate all 60 minutes. That just doesn’t happen. The game naturally has ebbs and flows to it. What it actually means is that a team at least puts effort into all those minutes. Once again, it feels like that effort is falling flat for the Kraken. A second period where the team controlled the pace of play and pulled ahead to gain the lead was blown away by one single shot, and then the third came along and the Kraken couldn’t seem to repeat their effort. It was as if they had already used all the energy up.
How do they fix this going forward? I’m honestly not sure. I’m not the coach, I’m just an observer here. I’m just here to call out the issue as I see it, and this is definitely an issue. The Kraken need to figure out how to keep consistently controlling the pace of play. They’ve pulled it off before, so why can’t they do it more often?
It wasn’t even a full four minutes into the game before a minor scrum broke out between the two teams. It wasn’t surprising to see Brandon Tanev and Yanni Gourde were in the middle of it all. Yet, it did feel surprising at first to hear that a penalty was being called in the midst of something that, at first glance, seemed like minor pushing and shoving. It turned out, though, that Chandler Stephenson managed to pull at Gourde’s visor and earn himself a trip to the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Grabbing an opponent’s visor to gain an advantage in a scrum or altercation is prohibited. It’s a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. pic.twitter.com/KAq6fmPmeg— Dave Jackson (@ESPNRefNHL) November 10, 2021
Add onto that, even though the Kraken were far and away the leader in hits (30 to Vegas’s 15), Vegas didn’t shy from laying two absolutely massive hits that sent their home crowd roaring. The first of these was Brayden McNabb on Brandon Tanev, and the second hit was on Jordan Eberle. Notice something in common about the two players? They’re the top two goal scorers on the team. It doesn’t entirely feel random that these are players Vegas would want to try to target with physicality.
Things didn’t fully explode the way some past Kraken games have (looking at you, Philly and New Jersey), but there’s definitely the sense that these two teams are growing to not like each other much and that Vegas isn’t afraid to be dirty when playing against the Kraken. There are two more matchups against the Golden Knights, and I’m ready to see what’s next in store for this Pacific Division showdown in terms of forming rivals for the Kraken.
Chemistry in bloom
It’s wonderful to finally see Jordan Eberle reaching his actual goal-scoring potential. He’s now got 7 goals on the season, overtaking Tanev for sole lead on the team, which is a far cry from his six-game goal-scoring drought he started off with. Kicking off yet another game with a goal is what we want to see from our top line players. On top of this, his linemate Alex Wennberg is quietly wracking up the assists, earning 4 of them in the past 3 games. 3 of them have been on Eberle goals. There’s good chemistry happening between them and Jaden Schwartz, and I hope they’re able to keep building upon that and finally establish a true dominant first line.
With this top line clicking as it is, it was interesting when I first realized that Hakstol switched up his forward lines around to where Yanni Gourde was no longer centering the top line. It felt like early season predictions lined up to where Gourde would be the team’s 1C, especially after having his past two seasons involve going out there and winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Yet, seeing what the newfound second line is capable of, it feels less like a demotion, and more like Hakstol finding another good piece of chemistry to click together. I mentioned above that it was not surprising to see Gourde mix it up with Tanev by his side. They’re not carbon copies of each other by any means, but their styles compliment each other well and feed into each other. One of the few good things to carry over from the Arizona game was Tanev setting up the primary assist to a Gourde goal.
Yanni with goals in back-to-back games. pic.twitter.com/6IGTql0VyP— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) November 10, 2021
They’re reading off of each other well in order to set up good chances. There’s almost no time for Lehner to react because the speed at which Tanev and Gourde shoot off the puck at is astounding. We also shouldn’t overlook Joonas Donskoi’s role in this goal either and his ability to keep deking the puck out of harm’s way. Yet, I focus on these two as a tandem specifically because the vibes are there with them. It’s a partnership that seems to make sense to me.
Speaking of Tanev, congratulations are in order to him for reaching 100 points in the NHL on that assist. Eight of them have been scored in this season already, and he had a total of 16 in 32 games last year just for an idea of increase in scoring pace he’s at. If he keeps up at it, we’ll certainly see him hit the next 100 a little bit faster.
Plus, who doesn’t love Turbo content? I think it’s all what we need in our lives to help us come down from yet another loss.
Next game: Thursday, 11/11 at home against the Anaheim Ducks. Puckdrop: 7:00 PT / 10:00 ET